Malaysian tycoon Khoo Kay Peng has told the High Court he was "very, very surprised and shocked" to read that his wife has 1,000 pairs of shoes.
His estranged wife Pauline Chai earlier told the court she kept 700 pairs of her 1,000 pairs of shoes in Hertfordshire, England, to support her claim that their divorce case should be heard in London.
Dr Khoo, 75, was giving evidence on Monday via live video link from Kuala Lumpur. He is contesting the British courts' jurisdiction and has filed his own divorce petition in his native Malaysia.
He said Ms Chai's shoe collection reminded him of Imelda Marcos. The widow of former Philippine president Ferdinand Marcos is believed to have owned more than 3,000 pairs of shoes.
"I really don't know how many pairs of shoes she has got. A wild guess, I would tell you about 20, 30, 40," Dr Khoo said, referring to Ms Chai.
Ms Chai, 67, a former Miss Malaysia, claims that the couple settled permanently in Hertfordshire in 2009 and she is therefore entitled to British justice.
Ms Chai, who has Canadian and Australian citizenship, recently renounced her Malaysian citizenship. Neither Dr Khoo nor Ms Chai are citizens or permanent residents of Britain.
On Monday, Dr Khoo said England was never his wife's home and he never agreed with his wife to settle in Britain. "I never told her I want to live in England. The tax is far too high. And my friends told me there are more foreigners in London than British people," he said.
Dr Khoo is chairman of Malaysia United Industries, an investment holding company with substantial assets in Britain including stakes in lifestyle brand Laura Ashley and the Corus group of hotels, 10 of which are in Britain. He also owns Rossway Park, a £30 million (S$61 million) estate in Berkhamstead, Hertfordshire, where Ms Chai now lives.
According to Forbes, his net worth as at February is £190 million, though he is speculated to be worth closer to £500 million. He declined on Monday to give an estimate of his financial worth, saying only that the Forbes figure is too high.
Ms Chai's claim is estimated at £200 million and if successful, could be Britain's largest divorce settlement. It is believed that she filed her petition in London - reputedly the divorce capital of the world - 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 the couple's acquisition, either directly via payments or indirectly, by raising the children and taking care of the home.
According to Dr Khoo, the sums claimed by his wife "are absurd". He said: "We have never lived the lifestyle she claims we are living. For the last 43 years, I gave her C$20,000 (S$22,740) a month for her and the children. Now the children are all grown up." They have five adult children together.
He added that he has paid her over RM20 million (S$7.8 million) since the divorce proceedings began, to cover her maintenance and costs.
Private details of the once jet-set couple have emerged in this bitter, drawn-out case that has already cost £2.3 million in legal fees. They led a lavish lifestyle during their 43-year marriage, with luxury staffed homes in Kuala Lumpur, Canada and Australia. Rossway Park, their home in Britain, sits on 404ha of land guarded by Gurkhas.
Dr Khoo conceded the marriage has been troubled since October 2012. "We are totally incompatible. Our thinking, our lifestyle, our interests, our personalities. I'm old school, traditional... She loves publicity. I work very hard, live low-profile, I love music. Her tastes... are different from me."
A staunch Christian, he told the court he suffered a stroke in 2008 and was completely healed by "our Lord Jesus Christ". He said he was "surprised and shocked" when his wife "went behind my back" and filed for divorce last year, as divorce is not permitted in the Bible.
The hearing continues.
This article was first published on October 15, 2014.
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