The estranged wife of a property millionaire who claims his £400m fortune has evaporated called today for him to “hear the clang of the prison gates” behind him after he failed to comply with a court order to explain where his money has gone.
Michelle Young, 45, accused her husband Scot of feigning mental illness to avoid providing a detailed account of the disappearance of his nine-figure portfolio of stockbroker belt mansions and other assets, which he says has collapsed to such an extent that rather than being a Rolls Royce-driving magnate he is now penniless and being pursued by creditors for £27m.
Lawyers for Mr Young, 47, admitted before a judge in London’s High Court that he was still unable to provide documentation to back up his claim to be broke despite being told at a hearing in June this year that he faced a six-month jail term unless he could provide the accounts to prove his financial collapse.
The court heard that that the tycoon, who has been described as a “fixer” for Russian oligarchs and counts several British billionaires as close friends, had suffered mental health problems which resulted in a week-long hospital stay after he had tried to go through his papers to provide the evidence of his demise.
But Mrs Young, who is suing for divorce and half of her husband’s putative wealth, insisted through her lawyers that there was a possibility that he was “pulling the wool over the doctors’ eyes” with his illness and his expressions of contrition to the court were “cynically contrived”.
For his part, Mr Young’s representatives said it was proof of their client’s poverty that he had admitted himself to a NHS hospital last month and not “knocked on the door of the Priory”, the private clinic which is the preferred choice for celebrities in need of psychiatric care.
David Balcombe QC, for Mrs Young, said the mother-of-two was now facing eviction from her luxury home in Regent’s Park because her husband had defaulted on the £10,000-a-month rent, even though she suspects he actually owns the property. Mr Young has also stopped paying the £36,000-a-year school fees for their children Scarlet, 16, and 14-year-old Sasha, the court heard.
Mr Balcombe, who asked for independent psychiatric reports to assess the authenticity of Mr Young’s claims, said the time had come for the tycoon to learn the lesson of breaking his undertaking to come clean about his finances: “This is someone who enjoyed a massive fortune, who says it is all gone but has not provided any worthwhile information enabling the wife or her advisers to understand how it has gone or where it has gone.”
He added: “This husband ought to hear the clang of the prison gates and know what it is like if he doesn’t comply with court orders. Prison could alter his behaviour once it has been sampled.”
Prior to his claimed downfall, Mr Young had prospered from his impeccable network of contacts, supposedly including Bill Clinton, to become a multi-millionaire. He sold one of his collection of high-value homes to Boris Berezovsky, the exiled Russian plutocrat, for £19m on the Wentworth Park Estate in Egham, Surrey.
The British tycoon, who said he could only afford to be represented at yesterday’s hearing thanks to a £50,000 loan from the restaurateur Richard Caring, owner of The Ivy, also counts the entrepreneur Sir Tom Hunter and retailer Sir Philip Green among his close friends.
After meeting his wife in 1995, the couple settled down to a life of luxury, shuttling between their mansions in England and a yacht in Monaco. But after the marriage broke down in 2006, Mrs Young claims her husband’s wealth mysteriously vaporised within a matter of months.
Philip Marshall, for Mr Young, said he had apologised for his failings and promised to comply with the court order in the future but underlined he was sincere in his insistence that he was penniless. Adding that his client was “not wilfully in default” of the court, he said that the pursuit of his creditors meant that Mr Young was in reality worth “minus £27m”.
The case continues.