KUALA LUMPUR - A British High Court has ruled that the divorce case between former beauty queen Pauline Chai and her estranged millionaire tycoon husband Tan Sri Khoo Kay Peng can be heard in England.
This could set the stage for what could be the "most expensive divorce" to ever be heard in England, with Chai expected to demand half of Khoo's estimated RM2.3 billion (S$896 million) fortune, according to British media.
The most expensive settlement so far in the country was the RM842 million that Russian oligarch Boris Berezovsky was ordered to make on Galina Besharova in 2011.
The Telegraph reported that Chai, 67, would likely be given a bigger settlement with her case being heard in Britain than in Malaysia.
To convince the court she lived primarily in Britain, Chai said that she kept a collection of 1,000 pairs of shoes at their RM156 million mansion in Hertfordshire.
Sitting in the High Court Family Division, Justice David Bodey said that while he found Chai's collection of shoes argument sketchy, he was satisfied that she was "genuinely" based in Britain.
"I am pleased the judge recognised my connection with this great country. I am so pleased that I, my children and my shoes have found a home here," said Chai, who was Miss Malaysia in 1969.
The BBC, however, noted that Khoo already started proceedings in Malaysia, with a hearing due next month.
The Laura Ashley chairman has been pushing for the divorce to be heard in Kuala Lumpur, where the couple married and own a home.
British media also speculated that Chai would be given a far smaller settlement if they divorced in Malaysia.
Justice Bodey urged the two parties to redouble efforts "to reach a financial accommodation" and avoid the nightmare of a legal battle in two jurisdictions.
He added that there was "enough in the kitty" for both of them and that it would be hard for them to spend all that money in their lifetime, "even if they wanted to".
Chai and Khoo married in 1970 and have five adult children. Neither of them are British citizens.
The Daily Mail reported that Chai had claimed her husband made her feel "like a prisoner" in their 1,000-acre country estate and only allowed her RM526 for food a week.
Khoo, 75, has accused his wife of "passport juggling" and being a "forum shopper" and claimed that Chai was planning to hightail it out of Britain once the divorce settlement was over.