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Divorce fight set for court appeal

Published 07/07/2015

A High Court judge ruled that Yasmin Prest was owed £360,000
A High Court judge ruled that Yasmin Prest was owed £360,000

A multi-million pound divorce money fight between a Nigerian businessman and his ex-wife could be analysed by the Supreme Court for a second time.

Michael Prest today lost the latest round of his long-running battle with Yasmin Prest when the Court of Appeal concluded that he had failed to pay money he owed.

His lawyers say they aim to ask Supreme Court justices - the most senior judges in the UK - to consider the issue.

The Supreme Court has already analysed the case once - in the summer of 2013 - when justices ruled against Mr Prest on a different legal point.

Mr Prest had asked the Court of Appeal to intervene after a High Court judge concluded that he failed to hand more than £360,000 he owed to Ms Prest - and said he would be jailed for four weeks if he did not pay.

But three appeal judges today dismissed his challenge.

They said if he now paid the money by late September he would not be committed to prison.

A spokesman for law firm Collyer Bristow, which represents Mr Prest, said a challenge to the appeal court ruling would be mounted in the Supreme Court.

Today's appeal court ruling was the latest stage in a long-running fight between the Prests - who are both in their 50s, were married for 18 years and have four children.

In 2011, Mr Justice Moylan had been told that Mr Prest was a wealthy oil trader.

The judge assessed Mr Prest's net assets at £37.5 million and he ordered Mr Prest make a lump sum payment of £17.5 million and maintenance payments which added up to nearly £300,000 a year.

He also concluded that 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.

Mr Justice Moylan 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 Ms Prest.

But the Supreme Court ruled against Mr Prest and said he should hand properties held in the names of companies he controlled to Ms Prest.

The case returned to court in July 2014, when Ms Prest told Mr Justice Moylan that Mr Prest had not complied with his order.

She said she was owed hundreds of thousands of pounds in maintenance - and asked for him to be committed to jail for being in contempt of court.

Mr Justice Moylan concluded that he was in contempt and imposed a four-week suspended sentence.

Mr Prest was told to pay by late October 2014 - or be jailed.

But when he launched a challenge in the Court of Appeal, he won a stay of execution.

Appeal judges say he will now have until September pay - or be jailed.

But they say he could be granted another stay of execution if he asks the Supreme Court to intervene.

"This is a complex long running case that has engaged the court on several important areas of law including ownership of corporate and trust assets, and now enforcement," said the Collyer Bristow spokesman in a statement:

"It has already travelled once to the Supreme Court and will now return on a different issue if permission is given to appeal today's Court of Appeal judgment."

The spokesman said company-owned properties had been transferred to Ms Prest following the Supreme Court ruling.

And he said, given the increase in the value of property, it was "reasonable to assume that Mrs Prest has now received close to the original lump sum award of £17.5 million".

"There is no argument that Mr Prest has always maintained Mrs Prest and the children to a very high standard," said the spokesman.

"What is confirmed by today's ruling, however, is that, whilst making payments for their maintenance, he failed to do so in the prescribed form."

He added: "Mr Prest feels he has no choice but to appeal today's ruling as there are still unresolved questions that arise."

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