One of Britain’s most powerful businessman has denied sheltering money belonging to a bankrupt tycoon at the centre of Britain’s most high-profile divorce battle, the High Court heard.
Sir Philip Green, the billionaire owner of Topshop, said he had never “secreted monies away from the prying eyes of the court” on behalf of his friend Scot Young, who claims he is penniless and unable to provide for his wife and two daughters.
A former adviser to Prime Minister David Cameron, Sir Philip told the court he had lent Mr Young £80,000 in 2008 to cover the rent of a property in Regents Park Terrace, London, where his estranged wife was living after they separated.
Michelle Young, 49, claims her husband has squirrelled “a few billion at least” in offshore tax havens around the world and has waged a bitter, seven-year battle to uncover his alleged fortune.
She has previously claimed that gifts from Mr Young’s friends and business associates are, in fact, a “conduit for his secreted wealth”.
In a statement to the High Court, Sir Philip said: “Scot explained his financial position to me and explained the problems he was having. He asked me if I could help which I agreed to do.”
As he walked out of the courtroom, the retail magnate threw a cheque onto the desk of Mrs Young's barrister, Rex Howling QC, saying “give this back to your client”.
It is understood the £50 cheque had been paid to cover Sir Philip's travel expenses after she issued him with a witness summons.
The court also heard from another friend of Mr Young, restaurateur Richard Caring, who owns The Ivy, Annabelle’s and Soho House.
The 61-year-old said he lent the property and telecoms magnate £50,000 in 2009 because he wanted to help.
“I said I would lend him the money on the basis that if there was a time that he could repay it, that would be great, if there wasn't, there wasn't,” he told the court.
Mr Young, who is representing himself, claims he suffered a financial “meltdown” just as his marriage was imploding in March 2006.
He was declared bankrupt in 2010 but the court has previously heard claims from an American asset tracer that the tycoon is worth around £700 million.
Mr Young was jailed earlier this year for repeatedly failing to comply with court orders asking him to prove the mysterious disappearance of his wealth.
The High Court also heard “very important” evidence from Mr Young’s banker Willie Raeburn, a senior official at Lloyds Banking Group.
The Scot confirmed one of his colleagues, Alastair Kennedy, had seen millions of pounds in share certificates belonging to Mr Young when he visited the office of the tycoon’s former lawyer Stanley Beller in 2006.
Mr Young stands accused of stealing £13 million in share certificates from Mr Beller’s safe shortly after that date, which later caused his lawyer to be struck off.
Mr Young has denied the theft and says he cannot prove what happened to the money as it belonged to Mr Beller.
Mr Raeburn said Mr Young’s assets held by the lawyer had been used to guarantee a “bridging loan” to the tycoon on a £6 million beachfront property in Miami.
He said: “Mr Kennedy told me that he had seen the share certificates.”
Later in the day, the court also heard from Michael Slater, a corporate lawyer linked to Mr Young, who has repeatedly denied ever acting for the tycoon.
However, he was asked about ledger accounts from Mr Young’s corporate lawyers that showed his own firm, Butcher Burns, was paid £7.25 million.
Mr Slater, who admitted handing Mr Young £5,000 in cash on behalf of a client, replied: “I have no idea.”
He also said he could not explain why £103,000 was transferred to his own company, Nicholson Slater Ltd, from Mr Young’s personal bank account in 2003. “I have no idea. It was 10 years ago,” he replied.
The hearing continues.Reuse content