Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 22 October 2014

Tycoon husband 'has no income'

Yasmin Prest claims that her estranged husband is in contempt of court because he owes more than £400,000 in periodical payments

A businessman said to be worth nearly £40 million two years ago has "very, very little money", a High Court judge was told today.

Michael Prest, who is in his 50s, has "no source of income" and is looking for a job, Mr Justice Moylan heard at a High Court hearing in London.

Detail emerged at the latest round of a divorce cash fight - which was earlier this year analysed by the Supreme Court - between Mr Prest and his estranged wife Yasmin, who is also in her 50s.

In 2011 a High Court judge had assessed Mr Prest's net assets at £37.5 million and ordered him to make a lump sum payment of £17.5 million to Mrs Prest.

And he said Mr Prest should make periodical payments totalling nearly £300,000 a year to his wife and their four children until the lump sum was paid.

Mrs Prest today claimed that Mr Prest was in contempt of court because he owed more than £400,000 in periodical payments.

Her claim is due to be fully argued at a hearing early next year - and Mr Prest could be jailed if a judge finds him in contempt.

Sarah Dines, for Mr Prest, today told Mr Justice Moylan: "He tells me is he being truthful and frank. He says he has no source of income and is actively looking for employment."

She said Mr Prest was "at a loss at what to do to find the money" and added: "He finds himself in a position where he has very, very little money with which to live. He is a man in considerable difficulty, personally, financially and emotionally."

Jeremy Posnansky QC, for Mrs Prest, told the judge: "I don't accept any of the evidence presented by Miss Dines."

Mr Justice Moylan delayed the hearing of Mr Prest's contempt application after being told that Mr Prest was due to have an operation today.

He said it would be listed for a date in January or February.

Judges have heard that the couple had married in 1993, had spent most of their time in London, had properties in Nigeria and the Caribbean and had lived to a ''very high standard''.

The judge who ordered Mr Prest to make a lump sum payment of £17.5 million to Mrs Prest had assessed Mr Prest's net assets at £37.5 million.

But he said Mr Prest had made ''various attempts'' to conceal the extent of assets. And the judge said he had made a wealth assessment ''doing the best he could'' on the material available.

Properties held in the name of companies Mr Prest had controlled have been a central issue in the cash fight.

A High Court judge initially ordered Mr Prest to transfer properties held in the names of companies he controlled.

The Court of Appeal disagreed and said Mr Prest did not have to hand property to Mrs Prest.

But the Supreme Court - the highest court in the UK - ruled in Mrs Prest's favour at a hearing in London in June.

A panel of seven Supreme Court justices said a number of disputed properties were ''held'' by Mr Prest's companies but were assets to which he was legally ''entitled''.

They said in divorce litigation a court could transfer property to a spouse if the other spouse was ''entitled'' to it.

And they ruled that seven properties should be transferred to Mrs Prest.

No mention was made of the properties at today's hearing before Mr Justice Moylan.

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