Friday, October 26, 2012
Tycoon wins ruling in divorce case
A Nigerian oil tycoon won the latest round of an "extraordinary" divorce battle when senior judges said he did not have to hand millions of pounds worth of property to his estranged English wife.
The Court of Appeal concluded that a High Court judge had wrongly ordered Michael Prest to transfer six London properties - held in the names of companies he controlled - to estranged wife Yasmin Prest.
Lawyers said the decision had implications and was "disappointing" for wives whose husbands might use companies to shelter wealth.
Appeal judges said the couple - both in their early 50s - had married in 1993, spent most of their time in London, had properties in Nigeria and the Caribbean and lived to a "very high standard".
They said Mr Prest was "prominent in international oil development and trade" and claimed to be worth about £48 million - Mrs Prest said he was worth "tens if not hundreds of millions" of pounds.
Mrs Prest had asked for 15 times the amount Mr Prest wanted to give when the couple had argued over money in a High Court trial. Mr Prest had proposed giving his wife a package amounting to "a little over £2 million" - Mrs Prest wanted £30.4 million, appeal judges said.
High Court judge Mr Justice Moylan had "conservatively" put Mr Prest's wealth at £37.5 million - and concluded that a fair award to Mrs Prest was £17.5 million.
Mr Justice Moylan had taken into consideration a string of London properties - in the name of "one company or another" - worth millions of pounds in total. And he had ruled that six should be transferred to Mrs Prest.
But a panel of three appeal judges overturned Mr Justice Moylan's ruling on the London properties - after challenges by companies. They allowed appeals by a 2-1 majority in a written judgment, following a Court of Appeal hearing in London in July.
Lord Justice Thorpe dismissed appeals - and agreed with Mr Justice Moylan's findings. But Lord Justice Rimer and Lord Justice Patten allowed appeals and said Mr Justice Moylan had been wrong.