Led away in handcuffs, and carrying a Louis Vuitton overnight bag, a property tycoon began a six-month prison term yesterday, far removed from his customary, cushioned life of champagne and supermodels.
It was the latest twist in an acrimonious divorce battle which saw Scot Young, 51, jailed after a High Court judge ruled that he had “flagrantly” disobeyed orders to provide financial details to his estranged wife and was in contempt of court.
As he swapped his central London flat for a cell, Young’s girlfriend Noelle Reno, a 29-year-old model, said: “It’s not a great day, is it? I didn’t expect six months.”
After a six-year legal fight, it appeared that Young not only exhausted the patience of his wife Michelle, 48, – the mother of his two teenage daughters – but also that of Mr Justice Moor, who sentenced him on two counts, insisting he had been given three opportunities to comply with court orders to fully disclose what had happened to his reputed £400m fortune.
“I consider both the contempts are serious. They are so serious that a fine – which would be useless as I am satisfied you would not pay– cannot be justified,” the judge told Young. One explanation provided by the businessman was “absurd” and another was “next to useless”, the court was told.
The Youngs once shared a jetset lifestyle of private aircraft, luxury homes and fine dining. Mr Young is said to have made his fortune as a fixer for British and Russian billionaires, as well as buying and selling prestigious properties around the world. But after the couple separated in 2006, Mrs Young claimed that her husband “secreted enormous assets” and left her and their daughters Scarlet and Sasha, now 19 and 17, destitute.
Unwilling to accept his assertion that he had lost everything in a failed Moscow property deal, she took him to court. In 2009, a judge ordered Young to pay his wife £27,500 a month maintenance, an amount which has now accrued to almost £1m.
But repeated attempts to get the tycoon to disclose his finances failed as he claimed he was bankrupt and penniless. Mrs Young’s lawyers said he had given the court the “runaround”. Edward Fitzgerald, QC, for Mrs Young, told the judge her husband had given “absolutely no explanation” as to where his £400m had gone.
Despite pleading poverty, Young seemed to enjoy a lifestyle “consistent with considerable wealth”, the barrister added. “He is going from party to party with champagne glass in his hand and his current girlfriend, some supermodel or other, on his arm.”
Young told the judge he had “done everything in [his] power” to comply with the court orders but asked the judge to give him another 28 days to comply. He claimed he had been harassed by “eight private detectives” employed by his wife and suggested that he was under greater surveillance that a terrorist. Such scrutiny, he said, had made him unwell and he had recently been kept in hospital while relying on “gifts” from friends to cover his living expenses.
However, the judge ruled that Young’s time was up. “He has not complied,” said Mr Justice Moor. “There has been a flagrant and deliberate contempt over a very long period of time.”
And he said neither a fine nor a suspended sentence would be a sufficient penalty. Mr Justice Moor said the couple’s competing claims would still have to be argued at a trial – due to take place later this year.
Outside court, Mrs Young said: “It has been a very long, rough ride. I hope I can make a stand for other families who have been left in such dire circumstances after long marriages. We were married 12 years. We were together for 18 years ... Why should I just walk away? This money was made during our time together.”