A London judge has ordered oil trader Michael Prest to pay his wife over $600,000 in support and alimony payments or face jail time. Prest’s case gained attention last year for a landmark U.K. Supreme Court ruling permitting Yasmin Prest to pierce the corporate veil to reach assets that Michael had placed in trusts held by his various offshore companies. The ruling represented the first time the British courts pierced the corporate veil in a divorce case, and ultimately led to Yasmin obtaining a 17.5 million pound divorce award.
Prest claims that he does not have sufficient funds to pay the award because his company, Petrodel Resources Ltd., is no longer operational. Yasmin asserts that, despite his claims of poverty, Michael still lives a lavish lifestyle, spending hundreds of thousands of pounds per year on luxury travel.
As we wrote here, when conducting matrimonial asset investigations, especially those involving self-employed spouses like Michael Prest, our first step is to look for companies owned by the spouse, his family, and his close associates. If the spouse makes no mention of income from these companies in his net worth statement or if he has not disclosed his interest in them during the discovery process, then their mere existence can be a sign that the spouse is using his companies to hide money.
Once we find the spouse’s companies, we can then search for assets owned by those companies, not just by the spouse. We may find real property, stock holdings, aircraft, boats, or any of a wide range of assets that can be uncovered in a public record search.
We were once able to find a side company owned by a lawyer husband in which he had stashed an entire thoroughbred horse farm. We also found the value of the horses, the trucks, the barns, and even the tractors on the property, all through searching the public record. In addition to what we uncovered, our client was also able to request broad discovery of all of the husband’s hidden companies and their assets, including trusts and bank accounts.