Nigerian Michael Prest has lost a legal battle with his estranged English wife Yasmin over a £17.5m divorce settlement.
The Supreme Court judgement marks the latest round of a lengthy legal cash dispute between the couple over the oil tycoon’s fortune.
In October, the Court of Appeal ruled that a High Court judge had earlier wrongly ordered Mr Prest to transfer properties, worth millions of pounds and held in the names of companies he controlled, to Mrs Prest.
She then asked the Supreme Court – the highest court in the UK – to assess the case, where seven judges on Wednesday unanimously allowed Mrs Prest’s appeal.
Mr Prest, founder of Nigerian energy company Petrodel Resources, claimed to be worth about £48m. But Mrs Prest said he was worth much more than than that – “tens if not hundreds of millions” of pounds.
She said after the decision:
“I’m delighted and relieved that the Supreme Court has ruled as it did.’m grateful to the judges for the care and thought they gave the case.”It is more a case of satisfaction and relief than celebration.”None of this would have been necessary if Michael had been sensible and played fair.”
Judges heard the couple – in their early 50s – married in 1993, spent most of their time in London, had properties in Nigeria and the Caribbean and lived to a “very high standard”.
Lawyers said the new ruling could have significant implications for divorcing couples.
The challenge concerned the position of a number of companies belonging to the Petrodel Group which are “wholly owned and controlled” by Mr Prest.
One of the companies is the legal owner of five residential properties in the UK and another is the legal owner of two more.
The question the Supreme Court had to tackle was whether the court had power to order the transfer of the seven properties to Mrs Prest, given that they legally belonged to his companies, not him.
Allowing Mrs Prest’s appeal, the court declared that the seven disputed properties vested in the companies were ones that Mr Prest was “entitled, either in possession or in reversion”.
Mr Michael Prest, 51, and his wife, who met twenty years ago in London, enjoyed the fruits of the fortune he amassed, sending their son and three daughters to public school, and alternating their time between a multi-million pound house in London and homes in the Caribbean and Nigeria, where he was born the son of a Itsekiri chief before moving to the UK as a child.
After their separation in 2008 Mr Prest, who lives in Monaco, refused to pay the multi-million pound settlement to his 50-year-old ex-wife – a British-born IT consultant who has dual Nigerian nationality like her husband. The High Court, describing the husband as a manipulative and a “wholly unreliable witness”, ordered the transfer of 13 properties from his companies as part payment
Mr Prest was not in court to hear the judgement being delivered.