Wealthy Businessman Faces Jail After Latest Ruling In Prest Divorce Case

Expert Lawyers Praise ‘Powerful’ Statement On Divorce Settlements

10.12.2015

Oliver Wicks, Press Officer | 0114 274 4649

Specialist family lawyers from Irwin Mitchell say the Supreme Court’s latest decision in the on-going Petrodel v Prest divorce case sends out a ‘powerful and positive statement’ that people cannot avoid paying divorce orders. 

Michael Prest, a wealthy Nigerian businessman, faces jail after the Supreme Court refused him permission to appeal a ruling that he should serve time in prison for contempt of court for failing to make payments to his ex-wife.

The legal battle is one of the most high-profile divorce cases seen in England.

In 2011 a High Court ruling ordered Mr Prest, the founder of a Nigerian oil business Petrodel Resources Ltd, to transfer 14 properties which were tied up in his businesses to Yasmin Prest as part of a £17.5m divorce payout.

There were suggestions at court that he had previously flouted orders to pay his wife and had claimed he was bankrupt with the judge Mr Justice Moylan concluding at the time that Mr Prest had made ''various attempts'' to conceal the extent of his assets.

Mr Prest contested the decision but the Supreme Court ruled in 2013 that he should hand properties held in the names of companies he controlled to his former wife.

The case returned to court the following year when Ms Prest told Mr Justice Moylan that her ex-husband had not complied with his order. Mr Prest failed to persuade the Court of Appeal to overturn the decision, following a hearing in the Family Division of the High Court in London in July 2014.

A Supreme Court spokeswoman confirmed that justices had "declined to hear the appeal" from Mr Prest and therefore the Court of Appeal hearing will stand. Lawyers have yet to say what the next stage in the litigation will be.

This decision is the latest in a long-running fight between the Prests, who are both aged in their 50s and have four children from their 15 years of marriage.

Expert Opinion
“This case is not just about Ms Prest receiving the settlement she deserves, it is about the Supreme Court sending out a message that dishonesty will not be tolerated and that you cannot avoid paying a fair settlement without paying the price.

“It is a powerful and positive message; all financial court orders must be adhered to and fines and custodial sentences can be the consequences if you fail to do so.

“It is important in the interests of fairness that the family courts are seen to be imposing strong sanctions if individuals fail to meet payments that many people are dependent on.

”Mr Prest is now facing jail for failing to pay his ex-wife the money the Judge decided was fair in the original divorce settlement.”
Elizabeth Hicks, Partner