LONDON: Miss Malaysia Pauline Chai v. Laura Ashley Tycoon Khoo Kay Peng: A divorce where venue is the object

 The history
This is an interesting international divorce case going on in the Divorce Capital of the World – LONDON.
According to news reports from publications that include the Telegraph and Times Online, Miss Malaysia 1969 Pauline Chai, wants close to 500 million pounds in divorce settlement from her 74 year old husband and Laura Ashley Tycoon, Khoo Kay Peng. Chai and Peng have been married north of 40 years. It is always devastating when these silver marriages bust up like this. She is now 66 years old and entering her retirement age. To lose her husband after all these years must be tough. But don’t cry for her Malaysia. She lives in a hefty estate, more than 1000 acres close to London.
All this is irrelevant, however. The questions in this case are 1) which court is the appropriate venue to hear the case and which law should be applied? London or Malaysia? 2) Was there a prenuptial agreement and is it enforceable? 3) How can the parties’ wild pendente lite spending be reined in  by the courts?
Both sides are being repped by London power lawyers Fiona Shackleton and Ayesha Vardag – two heavy hitters who have worked on some of London’s most illustrious divorce cases in the past two decades that include Princess Diana, Paul McCartney, BMW heiress Radmacher, and other celebrated cases involving “celebrities, foreign royals, high net worth and international clientele.” Indeed, the two Malaysian citizens’ barristers are battling it out in the courts of London and Malaysia as we speak much to the chagrin of one of the judges who gripes that neither of them is a British Citizen, neither pays any British taxes, yet their divorce is eating up the lion’s share of judicial resources that rightly belongs to British tax payers who have legitimate legal needs like finding their abducted children and getting much needed child support.
A premiminary hearing is set for October.
The Venue Problem
A bunch of conventions seems to get in the way of Pauline Chai’s filing in London. They include Brussels II and Rome III. Under one or both of these, it appears that in order to file the case in London or to have British law applied to the divorce, at least one of the parties must have been domiciled in UK 6 months prior to the filing of the divorce action. This establishes venue. But which law will be applied? Rome III offers some guidance but not necessarily definitive answers.

Brussels II:
Brussels II Regulation (EC) No 2201/2003,[1] also called Brussels IIA or II bis is a European Union Regulation on conflict of law issues in family law between member states; in particular those related to divorce, child custody and international child abduction. It replaces Convention Council Regulation (EC) No 1347/2000 of 29 May 2000 on the jurisdiction, recognition and enforcement of judgments in matrimonial matters and in matters of parental responsibility for joint children. (Wikipédia)
Rome III :
The European Union Divorce Law Pact or Rome III Regulation, formally Council Regulation (EU) No 1259/2010 of 20 December 2010 implementing enhanced cooperation in the area of the law applicable to divorce and legal separation is a regulation concerning the applicable law regarding divorce valid in 14 countries. The regulation dictates which law should be used in cross-border divorces, while which courts should be used is determined by the Brussels II Regulation, which is valid for all European Union countries, except Denmark. The agreement, approved by Council of the European Union on 20 December 2010, took effect in the 14 original contracting parties on 21 June 2012[1] and makes use of the enhanced co-operation mechanism which allows a minimum of nine EU member states to establish advanced integration or cooperation in an area within EU structures but without all members being involved (Wikipédia)

So it is not just venue which is a sticky issue here. It is also a question of which law to apply? Uk or Malaysian? For sure the wife will do okay in London especially with Vardag as her attorney. But how would she do in Malaysia? Chances are, given how hard husband is working to pull the case to the Malaysian courts, probably not as well.
But the first round goes to the wife. It seems like the former beauty queen has obtained permission to refile her divorce action by the London Court recently based on the fact that it appears she meets the domiciliary criteria.
The expenses
The parties have, ostensibly, spent upwards of 2 million pounds in legal fees and the preliminary hearing has not yet been heard! This is due in part to the husband, Mr Peng who apparently skipped out on a couple of scheduled hearings much to the rancor of the judge. The last time he did this, the excuse was that he was in the middle of a long distance flight from Paris to Malaysia and could not make it. The judge made it clear that he was a fingertip away from being in contempt of court. Still. The amount of money flushing down the toilets here is “mindboggling.” According to one blog by British matrimonial attorney Marilyn Stowe, the Family Procedure Act frowns on wild Financial expenditures in family law actions. The court is tasked with helping to control costs. She had an excerpt from the act which reads in part:
Rule 1 of the Family Procedure Rules states that
Dealing with a case justly includes, so far as is practicable –
(a) ensuring that it is dealt with expeditiously and fairly;
(b) dealing with the case in ways which are proportionate to the nature, importance and complexity of the issues;
(c) ensuring that the parties are on an equal footing;
(d) saving expense; and
(e) allotting to it an appropriate share of the court’s resources, while taking into account the need to allot resources to other cases.
 
Nevertheless the judge still went ahead, according to Stowe and ordered a hefty pendente lite maintenance for Miss Malaysia.
The prenup
All bets are off that there was a prenup. The parties married in the 1960s for heavens sakes long before prenups were even allowed in England. Ironic since the wife’s attorney, Ayesha Vardag was responsible for the ground-breaking change in British law regarding enforceability of prenups Under UK law (in the Radmacher case.)
Stay tuned for updates.