Yasmine Prest, ex-wife of wealthy Nigerian-born and British-based oil baron, Michael Prest has asked the judge to commit her former husband to prison for contempt of court after he failed to pay her £17.5m divorce settlement ordered by court.
Daily Mail reports that the judge, Mr. Justice Moylan, who on Monday heard evidence at a High Court hearing in London during the latest stage of a long-running divorce cash fight which has been analysed by the Supreme Court, today imposed a four week suspended jail term.
Jeremy Posnansky QC yesterday told High Court Family Division judge Mr Justice Moylan that Ms Prest did not want to send her husband to prison – but that she had no alternative in view of what he had done.
Mr Posnansky said Mr Prest had falsely claimed he was ‘impoverished’ in order to avoid paying the money.
But he said the multi-millionaire had in fact been enjoying lavish holidays to the Caribbean, New York and France.
He had also spent around £12,000 on VIP tickets to a concert by pop star Justin Bieber for his children and their friends.
The court also heard that Mr Prest, who had just returned from Ibiza, was not in court because he was on a three-week holiday in New York with the children.
Mr Posnansky said that, although Mr Prest had paid the children’s school fees and staff costs at Ms Prest’s London home, he had not handed money to his ex-wife as ordered.
He said Mr Prest’s ‘false claims of impoverishment’ and ‘tale of woe’ were ‘untrue’ and that there had been ‘widespread and persistent’ attempts to mislead the court.
In 2011, at an earlier stage of the divorce battle, Mr Justice Moylan ruled that Mr Prest’s net assets were worth £37.5m.
He ordered Mr Prest to make a lump sum payment of £17.5m, as well as annual payments of £300,000, to his wife and their four children.
The decision was later overturned at the Court of Appeal but was successfully appealed by Ms Prest at the Supreme Court – the highest court in the UK – in June last year.
Mr Prest, who is said to be in his 50s, was not at the hearing but was represented by his lawyer, Sarah Dines.
Ms Dines told the judge that a doctor had assessed Mr Prest as being unable to attend the hearing, ‘both emotionally and physically’ due to ill health.
But the judge rejected his bid to adjourn the case for one year on the grounds of ill health, saying he was clearly not too ill to fly to New York.
Ms Dines said Mr Prest had described his oil trading days as being ‘over’ and that his accounts had been closed and staff made redundant.
She also read a letter from Mr Prest to the court, in which he said he had ‘never run away from anything’.
He added that he had ‘engaged in the process’, had not ‘shirked responsibilities’ and had taken care of his children.
The letter read said: ‘I have not killed anyone, nor have I committed any crime. I have simply slipped on the accident of life.
‘I have taken care of my children and will always do so. Any suggestion that I am running away is unfortunate.’
The couple – who married in 1993 and divorced in 2011 – spent most of their married life in London but also had properties in Nigeria and the Caribbean, the court heard.
Both Mr and Ms Prest have dual British and Nigerian citizenship and lived to a ‘very high standard’, the court was told.
Ms Prest still lives in the £5m family home in Maida Vale, west London, which she kept under the divorce settlement.
Three years ago, at the first stage of the couple’s divorce battle, Mr Justice Moylan concluded that Mr Prest had made ‘various attempts’ to conceal the extent of assets.
The judge then made a wealth assessment ‘doing the best he could’ on the material available.
Properties which were held in the name of companies controlled by Mr Prest were a central issue in the court case.
Mr Justice Moylan initially ordered Mr Prest to transfer properties held in the names of companies he controlled to his ex-wife.
But the Court of Appeal disagreed and said Mr Prest did not have to hand property to Ms Prest.
In June 2013, the Supreme Court overturned the decision and ruled in Ms Prest’s favour.
That court ruled that houses owned by Petrodel Resources Ltd and other Isle of Man-registered companies controlled by her husband in London and the West Indies can be sold to settle her award of £17.5m.
The seven judges unanimously overturned an Appeal Court ruling that companies owned by the oil trader were not family assets and could not be taken into account when calculating a divorce payout.
Source: Daily Mail