Editorial: The oil tycoon, his divorce, and a victory for women and justice

The case of Michael and Yasmin Prest is a turning point for British courts

Share

Over the past decade or so, London became known as the divorce capital of Europe, as wealthy litigants flocked to have their claims heard by UK judges. British courts were also seen as relatively more generous to the poorer partner, usually the woman. The Supreme Court’s latest ruling will reinforce this.  

In the case of the Nigerian oil tycoon Michael Prest and his former British wife, Yasmin, the court awarded a number of disputed properties to Ms Prest. It thus overruled an Appeal Court decision that the properties belonged to off-shore companies and not personally to her husband. The Supreme Court agreed unanimously that the properties, worth millions of pounds, were held in trust for Mr Prest and should therefore be considered his. 

As a decision that upholds a spouse’s rights, even when assets are tied up in offshore companies, this is to be welcomed. Where UK-registered companies are concerned, greater transparency meant there was less opportunity for assets to be concealed in the event of marital strife. The position with off-shore companies was murkier. It was argued on behalf of Mr Prest that the companies were separate entities and that shareholders’ rights took precedence. Family law was pitted against company law.

It is an exaggeration to conclude, however, that family law – the protection of a divorcing spouse – has been judged always to pre-empt company law – the protection of shareholders. Rather, what has happened is that another loophole that might have been exploited by cheating ex-spouses has been closed. It does not jeopardise the protection available to genuine shareholders in genuine companies. It just makes it harder for the wealthier party in a separation to profit from this sort of scam.

Divorce lawyers can give thanks that Yasmin Prest’s victory will do nothing to discourage the ex-wives of the super-rich pursuing their divorce settlements in London. But it does give their wealthier ex-husbands one more reason  to seek justice elsewhere.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Practice Accountant - Bournemouth - £38,000

£32000 - £38000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful accountancy practice in...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped commission: SThree: Does earning a 6 figu...

Recruitment Genius: SEO Executive

£18000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: New Lift Sales Executive - Lift and Elevators

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A challenging opportunity for a...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

For all his faults, Russell Brand is utterly sincere, something politicians should emulate

Janet Street-Porter
 

Never underestimate the power of the National Trust

Boyd Tonkin
The saffron censorship that governs India: Why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression

The saffron censorship that governs India

Zareer Masani reveals why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression
Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Supreme Court rules Dominic Grieve's ministerial veto was invalid
Distressed Zayn Malik fans are cutting themselves - how did fandom get so dark?

How did fandom get so dark?

Grief over Zayn Malik's exit from One Direction seemed amusing until stories of mass 'cutting' emerged. Experts tell Gillian Orr the distress is real, and the girls need support
The galaxy collisions that shed light on unseen parallel Universe

The cosmic collisions that have shed light on unseen parallel Universe

Dark matter study gives scientists insight into mystery of space
The Swedes are adding a gender-neutral pronoun to their dictionary

Swedes introduce gender-neutral pronoun

Why, asks Simon Usborne, must English still struggle awkwardly with the likes of 's/he' and 'they'?
Disney's mega money-making formula: 'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan

Disney's mega money-making formula

'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan
Lobster has gone mainstream with supermarket bargains for £10 or less - but is it any good?

Lobster has gone mainstream

Anthea Gerrie, raised on meaty specimens from the waters around Maine, reveals how to cook up an affordable feast
Easter 2015: 14 best decorations

14 best Easter decorations

Get into the Easter spirit with our pick of accessories, ornaments and tableware
Paul Scholes column: Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season

Paul Scholes column

Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season
Inside the Kansas greenhouses where Monsanto is 'playing God' with the future of the planet

The future of GM

The greenhouses where Monsanto 'plays God' with the future of the planet
Britain's mild winters could be numbered: why global warming is leaving UK chillier

Britain's mild winters could be numbered

Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Donation brings total raised by Homeless Veterans campaign to at least £1.25m
Oh dear, the most borrowed book at Bank of England library doesn't inspire confidence

The most borrowed book at Bank of England library? Oh dear

The book's fifth edition is used for Edexcel exams
Cowslips vs honeysuckle: The hunt for the UK’s favourite wildflower

Cowslips vs honeysuckle

It's the hunt for UK’s favourite wildflower
Child abuse scandal: Did a botched blackmail attempt by South African intelligence help Cyril Smith escape justice?

Did a botched blackmail attempt help Cyril Smith escape justice?

A fresh twist reveals the Liberal MP was targeted by the notorious South African intelligence agency Boss