Divorce proceedings between the Malaysian chairman of Laura Ashley plc and his estranged wife should continue in the English courts, judges have ruled.
Wealthy businessman Dr Khoo Kay Peng, now 76, has an estimated fortune of around £440 million. He separated from his wife of four decades, Pauline Chai, in 2012 and she filed for divorce the following year after settling on the couple’s Hertfordshire estate. Her husband remained in Malaysia.
In October 2014, Mrs Chai was granted permission by Mr Justice Bodey to continue the divorce application she had launched in the English courts. Dr Peng had previously attempted to begin divorce proceedings in the Malaysia courts, but his bid was rejected by the Kuala Lumpur federal court.
Nevertheless he appealed the decision to allow his estranged wife to pursue her claim in England, arguing that the couple had been legally based in Malaysia and so their divorce should be decided there. Pursuing her claim in the English courts was an “abuse of process” he asserted. But the Court of Appeal has now ruled against him. Lady Justice Macur declared
“Mr Scott QC [counsel for Dr Peng] fails to persuade me that Bodey J’s decision on the issue of the wife’s alleged abuse of process was wrong.”
“Bodey J was required to consider whether the husband had demonstrated that the forum [jurisdiction] with the “most real and substantial connection” to the suit was Malaysia…That is, he found on the first point that “the connecting factors to each jurisdiction pan out fairly equally, with a small bias in the wife’s favour”. This indicates a close run race, but not a dead heat in favour of England being the more appropriate forum, by however slight a margin.”
Read the ruling here.