This concerns former beauty queen Pauline Chai and her husband, Khoo Kay Peng, one of Malaysia’s richest businessmen. It is one of the largest and most complicated cases to ever come before the British divorce courts. The couple were married for 43 years, as the Malaysian businessman built up a multi-million pound empire, which includes high street name Laura Ashley.
Their divorce began in 2013, when the wife, represented by Vardags issued a petition for divorce in London. The husband disputed that she had the necessary link to England to do so, and so issued his own petition in Malaysia. This led to parallel proceedings in England and Malaysia, as each side sought to argue that the case should proceed in the jurisdiction most likely to be favourable to them. Through the diligence and innovative tactics of Vardags, the wife was successful at the High Court, with Mr Justice Bodey ruling that the case should be heard in England.
The husband appealed this decision, leading to a further round of litigation at the Court of Appeal. The higher court endorsed the decision of Mr Justice Bodey, and the appeal was dismissed. The case now continues in England, where Pauline Chai is expected to receive one of the most substantial awards in English legal history.
Li Quan and Stuart Bray met in 1990, and married in 2001. Both were united by their passion for saving the Chinese tiger and investigated vast amounts of time and money into a venture to save the endangered animals.
During the course of their marriage, the husband transferred almost all his wealth to a charitable trust registered in Mauritius. Though this was ostensibly to support their tiger project, the wife, represented by Vardags, has argued that it was set up in such a way that the husband could extract wealth from it, and that it was used to fund their lifestyle during the marriage. She sought to argue that the money was settled as part of a “nuptial settlement”, a special kind of trust which the court can vary in matrimonial proceedings.
In the High Court, Sir Paul Coleridge ruled against Li Quan, holding that the husband had no access to the money subject to the trust and that it should form part of the award.
The wife appealed this decision, arguing that the judge was wrong so to conclude. The wife has been granted permission to appeal, with the Court of Appeal hearing the case in 2017.
The case of Young v Young is perhaps one of the most famous and intriguing of modern family law. Scott Young was known as a “fixer” to the rich and famous. He and his wife enjoyed a fabulous and expensive lifestyle, mingling alongside some of the richest and most well known entrepreneurs in the country.
When it came to their divorce, however, Scott Young claimed that all of his wealth had been lost in a Moscow property deal gone wrong. He claimed to be penniless, living off the kindness of his friends and unable to pay his wife anything.
This led to a protracted court battle. Over 8 years, Michelle Young pursued her husband through the courts. He was sent to prison for failing to disclose his assets, and continued to argue that all of the money was gone.
At a final hearing, Michelle Young, represented by Vardags, was able to establish that the husband had around £40million of assets at the time of their separation, which the court felt he still must retain. The court therefore awarded Mrs Young £20million, plus backdated maintenance and the largest costs order ever made in family proceedings.
Radmacher was the landmark case in 2010 which made prenuptial agreements binding in English law. Prior to Radmacher, such agreements were seen as contrary to public policy, but the Supreme Court overturned centuries of legal history by allowing people to decide how their assets should be divided on divorce at the time of marrying.
The case concerned a German wife, heir to a large fortune, and her French husband, a banker. The parties had married in 1998 and entered into a prenup in Germany. This prenup held that neither party would benefit from the property of the other should they separate.
When they did separate, the husband applied in England for financial provision. The wife, represented by Vardags, argued that the husband should be bound by the terms of the prenuptial agreement. Initially the court, bound by previous case law, refused to do this.
In appealing to the Supreme Court, Katrin Radmacher made legal history. The Supreme Court held that the husband, and spouses generally, should be held to nuptial agreements unless it can be demonstrated that they are unfair. The court said that the agreement should have “magnetic importance”. The judgment held that respect should be given to personal autonomy, and ushered in a new era in English law of couples having greater control over the destiny of their assets should they come to divorce.