updated 1 Sep 2013, 17:00
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Thu, Aug 08, 2013
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M'sian tycoon's wife wants $980m divorce settlement

Former Miss Malaysia Pauline Chai is divorcing her billionaire retail tycoon husband - and she wants a £500 million (S$980 million) settlement.

Dr Khoo, ranked the 36th richest man in Malaysia by US magazine Forbes, bought a 40 per cent stake in Laura Ashley in 1998.

He is also chairman and chief executive at Malayan United Industries Bhd.

Madam Chai, 66, is seeking half his fortune at London's High Court.

She filed a petition for divorce in London in February on grounds of "unreasonable behaviour", reported Malaysia's The Star.

Since their estrangement, she claims they have lived in separate mansions on their £30 million estate, Rossway Park, near Berkhamsted, Hertfordshire.

Lawyers believe she could be awarded up to £500 million - the largest divorce settlement ever seen in Britain.

The couple have five children from their 43-year marriage.

According to Madam Chai, she and her husband have not spoken to each other for a year.

Madam Chai, who was crowned Miss Malaysia 1969, lives in the main 15-bedroom house, while Dr Khoo, 74, occupies a five-bedroom manor house nearby.

The sprawling grounds include two custom- built lakes and a collection of exotic animals, including alpacas.

Strangely enough, each has their own team of Gurkha guards to protect their part of the estate.

Madam Chai says she is now enjoying her freedom and has made new friends through her local church. She said: 'Now I feel happy. Now I feel different. I feel very free.'

Dr Khoo wants the divorce case to be heard in Malaysia, where his wife would be entitled to only a fraction of the settlement she could receive in Britain. But Madam Chai is pushing for the case to be heard in England, and will argue she has not been a Malaysian citizen for 30 years.

Beyond doubt

A report in the Evening Standard said Madam Chai was lodging a second divorce petition to show "beyond doubt" that she had been in the country for at least six months, as required by law.

Apparently, Dr Khoo's lawyers had criticised the move, saying it would "enhance the ill-gotten reputation of this country for being the divorce capital of the world".

The case will see a battle between two of Britain's top divorce lawyers.

Ms Ayesha Vardag, known as the "diva of divorce", is representing Madam Chai. Ms Fiona Shackleton is acting for Dr Khoo.

She had acted on behalf of celebrity chef Nigella Lawson during her recent "quickie" divorce from British art collector Charles Saatchi, and also represented Prince Charles during his divorce from Diana, Princess of Wales.

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