LONDON: In a bid to have her divorce heard in Britain, Pauline Chai, the estranged wife of Malaysian business tycoon Khoo Kay Peng, has told the High Court that she keeps 700 of her 1,000 pairs of shoes in her Â£30mil (RM156mil) Hertfordshire mansion.
“I have more than 1,000 pairs of shoes from 43 years. I have accumulated them, I never dispose of them,” Chai, 67, was cited by the Telegraph as saying.
Chai, who was crowned Miss Malaysia 1969, was giving evidence last Friday to prove that the couple settled permanently in Hertfordshire in 2009 and she was therefore entitled to file her divorce petition in the country.
Khoo, 75, is contesting Britain’s jurisdiction and has filed his own divorce petition in their native Malaysia. Neither of them is a British citizen. They have five adult children together.
Chai’s claim is estimated at Â£200mil (RM1bil) and if successful, is potentially Britain’s largest divorce settlement.
It is believed that she filed her petition in London because divorce settlements are based on an equal distribution of matrimonial assets here.
She could be entitled to less under Malaysian law, which divides matrimonial assets according to a spouse’s contribution to their acquisition, either directly via payments or indirectly by raising the children and taking care of the home.
The couple lived a lavish lifestyle during their 43-year marriage, with luxury staffed homes also in Kuala Lumpur, Canada and Australia.
In Britain, they live in separate mansions at Rossway Park, a sprawling 405ha estate in Berkhamstead, Hertfordshire guarded by Gurkhas and containing some llamas, alpacas and two man-made lakes costing Â£60,000 (RM312,000) each.
According to the Telegraph, when challenged by Khoo’s lawyers that she also had an extensive collection of clothes, shoes and handbags in her Kuala Lumpur home, Chai responded: “When you have houses all over the world and you travel so much, (you have some at each house) so you don’t have to carry it all along with you.”
Khoo is ranked 42nd on Malaysia’s 50 richest list by US magazine Forbes.
According to Forbes, his net worth as at February this year is Â£190mil (RM987mil), though it is speculated his worth is closer to Â£500mil (RM2.6bil).
Chai also told the court last Thursday that she had ordered a padded toilet seat for her husband as he had backache from spending hours reading and working while sitting on the toilet daily.
The Daily Mail reported that Chai’s lawyer Richard Todd QC said last Friday she lived on a “beautiful English estate”, had a taste for English TV shows and valued what was “quintessentially” English.
It had been reported earlier that Chai had her 15-room Hertfordshire home decked out in Laura Ashley furnishings because she “loved England and everything English”, and not just because her husband owns a 40% stake in the clothing and interiors firm.
Chai filed for divorce in February last year, citing her husband’s unreasonable behaviour.
She has accused him of being “very controlling”, rationing her food and forbidding her from leaving their house without his permission.
Chai said on Friday that she was not divorcing her husband for money, but to get away from a “violent” relationship, admitting that at one point she had locked herself in a back room, according to The Telegraph.
“I just wanted to get away from an abusive, oppressive relationship which I could not take because of my age,” she said.
“When I was younger, I could recover. Now it is too difficult to overcome it because of the violence and the fear he is putting on me,” she added.
She said he had told her: “You are nothing, you have nothing, you have no bargaining powers.”
Khoo’s lawyers have strenuously denied these allegations on his behalf, though the reclusive magnate has not made a personal appearance at any of the proceedings in Britain.
He will give evidence via live video link when the hearing resumes on Oct 13.
This high-stakes case has also attracted attention, and criticism, for its spiralling costs.
The legal fees for both sides have reached an eye-watering Â£2.3mil (RM12mil) in total, just for the preliminary proceedings so far.
Chai is represented by Ayesha Vardag, the capital’s “diva of divorce” who in 2010 got pre-nuptial agreements recognised in England, allowing her client, German heiress Karin Radmacher, to protect her Â£100mil (RM520mil) fortune from her former husband.
Khoo has retained Fiona Shackleton, another renowned divorce lawyer who has advised the likes of Sir Paul McCartney, Nigella Lawson and the Prince of Wales during his divorce from the late Diana, Princess of Wales. – Singapore Straits Times/ANN