A £500million divorce battle between a former Miss Malaysia and her millionaire husband has been branded ‘out of control’ by a judge.
The husband, Khoo Kay Peng, a Malaysian retail and hotel tycoon who is a major stakeholder in Laura Ashley, has already spent £567,000 on legal costs in Britain. He hopes to fend off his wife’s bid to hold the divorce in the English Courts and has also spent a large amount of money in his preferred location and home country, Malaysia.
His wife, Pauline Chai, who is seeking a settlement in the region of £500 million, has spent £920,000 on legal costs after starting divorce proceedings in London in February of last year, and a further £92,000 in Malaysia.
A one-day hearing last week for an application for maintenance cost Ms Chai £55,000, including £28,000 for barristers.
The case is listed at the High Court for 10 days in October. The purpose of the hearing is to decide if the divorce can go ahead in the English courts.
The judge hearing the case expressed his dismay at the spiralling costs of the case. He also explained that very high cost international divorce cases are using up court time and resources which could be put to better use.
The judge pointed out that fees for six full or part days of hearings in the family division of the High Court “are a mere £2,355”. It is thought that a High Court hearing costs the taxpayer at least £2,000 a day.
Mr Justice Holman said: “Neither of them are British citizens. Neither of them currently pays any English taxes whatsoever.
“Very serious issues ought to arise as to just how much time of an English court these parties should be able to take up on these preliminary skirmishes, whilst squeezing out the many needy litigants who need precious court time to recover their children from abduction or seek their return from care, and other such issues.”
Describing the couple’s worldwide legal costs as “completely out of control”, the judge also declared: “Phenomenal costs are being spent, a phenomenal amount of court time worldwide has already been take up.”