Oil trader Michael Prest owes ex-wife £360,000, court rules


A former oil trader once estimated to be worth nearly £40m has been given a four-week suspended jail sentence after a judge ruled he owed his ex-wife £360,000 in unpaid maintenance.

Michael Prest, 53, was said to have engaged in a “war of attrition” with his ex-wife Yasmin, 51, and neglected to give her maintenance money.

This, the High Court heard, was despite Mr Prest being able to spend more than £250,000 on holidaying in the Caribbean, New York and France with his children, who were also treated to about £12,000 worth of VIP tickets for them and their friends to see a Justin Bieber concert.

Concluding that the businessman could afford to pay what he owed, Mr Justice Moylan ruled that Mr Prest had wilfully refused or neglected to pay maintenance, and handed down the jail sentence, which will be suspended for three months.

It was the latest twist in a long-running legal battle between the former couple, who married in 1993 and divorced in 2011.

Previous hearings were told that during the marriage the Prests had resided mostly in London while enjoying properties in Nigeria and the Caribbean and living to a “very high standard”. They had four children together, but then things had turned sour.

In 2011 Mr Justice Moylan was told that Mr Prest was a wealthy oil trader and assessed his net assets at £37.5m – while also stating that the ex-husband had made “various attempts” to conceal the extent of his wealth.

He ordered Mr Prest to make a lump sum payment of £17.5m and maintenance payments which added up to nearly £300,000 a year.

The money, Ms Prest alleged, was not paid. She returned to court asking for her ex-husband to be jailed for contempt and claiming she was owed hundreds of thousands of pounds because he had not complied with the judge’s order.

Her lawyer Jeremy Posnansky QC said evidence of the ex-husband’s ability to pay was provided not just by the Bieber concert tickets and holidays, but also by Mr Prest paying staff at his London home and his children’s school fees, which totalled more than £90,000 a year.

Sarah Dines, for Mr Prest, said her client was in New York and too ill to attend court.  She said that his oil trading days were over and that his accounts had been closed and staff made redundant.

She read a letter from Mr Prest in which he insisted he had “never run away from anything”, and had “engaged in the process”, and not shirked his responsibilities.

“I have not killed anyone, nor have I committed any crime,” Mr Prest said in the letter. “I have simply slipped on the accident of life.”

Outside the court, the specialist divorce lawyer Ayesha Vardag, who previously acted for Ms Prest, said: “This a very welcome decision. The Family Courts are finally showing they have teeth. It’s the only way we’re going to get a justice system that actually works.”

John Nicholson, a specialist divorce lawyer at Irwin Mitchell, said the ruling “shows that family judges are not afraid to flex their muscles as they attempt to ensure all parties are complying with financial court orders”.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Arts and Entertainment
The Ridiculous Six has been produced by Adam Sandler, who also stars in it
filmNew controversy after nine Native American actors walked off set
Life and Style
The original ZX Spectrum was simple to plug into your TV and get playing on
techThirty years on, the ZX Spectrum is back, after a fashion
ebooksA celebration of British elections
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before
'Queer saint' Peter Watson left his mark on British culture by bankrolling artworld giants

'Queer saint' who bankrolled artworld giants

British culture owes a huge debt to Peter Watson, says Michael Prodger
Pushkin Prizes: Unusual exchange programme aims to bring countries together through culture

Pushkin Prizes brings countries together

Ten Scottish schoolchildren and their Russian peers attended a creative writing workshop in the Highlands this week
14 best kids' hoodies

14 best kids' hoodies

Don't get caught out by that wind on the beach. Zip them up in a lightweight top to see them through summer to autumn
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The acceptable face of the Emirates

The acceptable face of the Emirates

Has Abu Dhabi found a way to blend petrodollars with principles, asks Robert Fisk