Oil tycoon allowed to rely on African law in £17.5 million divorce battle

| February 20, 2012

Mr Prest’s brother, Michel, launched a claim in the Nigerian High Court in
2009 seeking a declaration that the oil company forms part of the estate of
their late father.

Mrs Prest, 49, fiercely contested the assertion, telling the court that
Petrodel, one of the largest independent energy investment companies in Sub
Saharan Africa, was “100 per cent owned and controlled” by her
former husband and was effectively his “alter ego.”

But although Lord Justice Thorpe criticised Mr Prest’s “flagrant breach”
of his duty to fully disclose his financial affairs, he granted him
permission to appeal after hearing that the Nigerian court had forbidden him
from sharing information relating to Petrodel with third parties.

“We are giving you leave on the customary law point and permission to
bring in the Nigerian judgment” he said “The ownership of Petrodel
is bound up with Nigeria and may be governed by customary law.”

Lord Justice Thorpe also criticised the “astronomical” legal costs
of the case, which have almost reached £3 million since the couple, who
lived in a £4 million property in west London, split in 2008.

Mrs Prest had sought a payout of more than £30 million, plus more than
£730,000-a-year for her and their four children. Mr Prest, who was named
third in The Power List 2007 by leading black newspaper New Nation, had
offered her £27,000-a-year and a lump sum of less than £2 million.

Customary law, which reflects the ancient rules of various ethnic and
religious groups, is one of the foundations of Nigerian law, alongside
common law and legislation.

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