You are here

Appeal court allows oil tycoon to rely on African law

A Nigerian-born, British-based oil baron has been granted permission by the Appeal Court to use Nigerian tribal law to appeal a multi-million pound divorce payout to his former wife.

22 February 2012

Add comment

Michael Prest, the 50-year-old founder of Nigerian energy trading firm Petrodel Resources, is attempting to overturn a High Court ruling of last year in which he was ordered to pay £17.5m in cash and assets to his wife of 15 years.

He applied for permission to appeal on the grounds that his oil company’s assets did not belong to his wife but were “held in trust” for his children, and the children of his four siblings in Africa, under Nigerian Itsekiri customary law.

The Appeal Court heard that Petrodel was established using a gift of £10,000 “seed money” from his Nigerian father before he died in 1992. Martin Pointer QC, acting for Prest, said that under customary law in Nigeria, the death left Prest as head of his family, with a responsibility to use the inheritance to look after his siblings and their children, according to a report in the Daily Telegraph.

Prest’s younger brother 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. Michael Prest also previously acquired a court order from a Nigerian court forbidding him from sharing information about Petrodel and its assets with third parties.

Although Lord Justice Thorpe criticised 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 the oil company.

“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.”

The court has not yet set a date for the full appeal.

Categorised in:

Family Tax & Wealth structuring