It has recently been reported by Telegraph, that Michael Prest, a wealthy Nigerian-born, British-based oil baron, and the founder of Petrodel Resources, has been granted permission to use Nigerian tribal law to appeal a $21 million divorce payout to his former British wife.
Mr Priest has appealed the High Court’s decision on the basis that his Petrodel ‘s assets do not belong to him but instead are held on trust for his children, siblings, nephews and nieces in Nigeria, under Nigerian Itsekiri customary law.
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. Under such law, Mr Prest claims, he has a historic responsibility to use the family ‘inheritance’ to look after his siblings and their children.
According to Telegraph Prest’s case is also helped by the fact that his younger brother went to a Nigerian High Court in 2009 and obtained a declaration which states that Petrodel Resources is a part of their late father’s estate. Furthermore, an order has been acquired from a Nigerian court which forbids him from sharing information about Petrodel and its assets with third parties.
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 reached almost £3 million since the split in 2008.
During the initial court proceedings, Mrs Prest claimed that Petrodel was completely owned and controlled by Mr Prest. She asked for a payout of about $40 million plus $1 million a year for upkeep of herself and their 4 children. Mr Prest had previously offered her the equivalent of $35,000.00 a year and a lump sum of about $2.5 million.
The court has not yet set a date for the full appeal.
If you are in the process of getting divorced, or you are divorced but the financial matters are still outstanding, please do not hesitate to contact a member of the team at Maguire Family Law who would be happy to assist you.
Maguire Family Law is a specialist firm of Family Law and Divorce Law solicitors based in Wilmslow, Cheshire. We offer legal advice to parties going through a divorce including the financial issues which flow from this (including pensions), linked business issues, international aspects and any relevant issues concerning the children. We also offer legal advice in relation to matters covered in this blog and general Children Law advice.