Michael Prest: Former oil tycoon who owes his ex-wife hundreds of thousands has under three months to pay her or he will go to jail

Michael Prest, 51, lost the latest round of his long-running battle with Yasmin Prest at Court of Appeal

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The Independent Online

A former oil tycoon who owes his ex-wife hundreds of thousands of pounds has under three months to start paying her maintenance or he will go to jail, the Court of Appeal has ruled.

Michael Prest, 51, lost the latest round of his long-running battle with Yasmin Prest when the appeal court concluded that he had failed to pay money he owed.

The ruling brings to an end a stay of execution for Mr Prest, by upholding a ruling from last year that he had been in contempt of court for not handing his ex-wife hundreds of thousands of pounds' worth of maintenance payments.

Appeal judges have now given Mr Prest until 28 September to pay up, or be sent to prison.

But this date could slip, as Mr Prest's lawyers say they aim to ask Supreme Court justices - the most senior judges in the UK - to consider the issue for the second time.

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 - who is thought to be worth nearly £40 million - 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. The judge had said Mr Prest would be jailed for four weeks if he did not pay.

But three appeal judges dismissed his challenge. They said if he now paid the money by late September he would not be sent to prison.

Wednesday's appeal court ruling was the latest stage in a long-running fight between the Prests - who were married for 18 years and have four children. Ms Prest, also in her 50s, and her ex-husband both hold dual British and Nigerian citizenship. Their divorce became final in November 2011.

In 2011, Mr Justice Moylan 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.

After a dispute over property was resolved in the Supreme Court, 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.

Judges say Mr Prest could be granted another stay of execution if he asks the Supreme Court to intervene.

Additional reporting by Press Association.