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21 February 2012 at 13:28 BST

Nigerian law to be used in multi-million pound divorce battle

A British-based oil entrepreneur has won the right to have Nigeria's customary laws considered when appealing a multi-million pound divorce case, in a ruling considered to be the first of its kind.

Nigeria: appeal for customary law in UK divorce case

Various media reports in the UK say that Nigeria-born Michael Prest, 50, who was once named as one of Britain’s most influential black men after he turned a £10,000 gift of ‘seed money’ from his dying Nigerian father in 1992 into a company, had a turnover of around £2.5 billion in 2007.
According to The Daily Telegraph, he was ordered to pay £17.5 million to his former wife of 15 years, 49-year-old Yasmin, after judges asserted the he was worth ’conservatively … at least £37.5 million’ and he had treated divorce proceedings ‘like a game’.

Overturn ruling

Now Mr Prest, who built his fortune in the UK and lives in London, is attempting to overturn that ruling by claiming that owing to the circumstance in which he founded his company, Petrodel Resources, Nigerian Itsekiri customary law should be considered.
Under that local law, Mr Prest could claim that he does not own his company’s assets. Instead, the assets are ‘held in trust’ for his children and those of his siblings.

Nigerian judgment

Lord Justice Thorpe told Mr Prest: ‘We are giving you leave on the customary law point and permission to bring in the Nigerian judgment.’ He concluded: ‘The ownership of Petrodel Resources is bound up with Nigeria and may be governed by customary law.’
Justice Thorpe also criticised the legal costs of the case, which have reached almost £3 million since the couple split in 2008.

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