M'sian and English courts in 'jurisdiction race' over divorce hearing

  • Nation
  • Sunday, 04 May 2014

PETALING JAYA: The Malaysian and English courts are set for a “jurisdiction race” to decide which will hear the high profile divorce between a former Miss Malaysia and her estranged tycoon husband.

While Pauline Chai Siew Phin (pic) has filed her divorce petition in a London court, Tan Sri Khoo Kay Peng lodged his at a Kuala Lumpur court.

This will leave both courts to decide over the issue of jurisdiction.

Chai’s counsel Ayesha Vardag described the situation as a “jurisdiction race” as a decision in either court would likely render the other case academic.

“It’s frankly a bit of a mess,” said Vardag when asked if having two parallel cases would cause confusion on how the divorce would proceed.

“We hope that the Malaysian courts will stay their proceedings,” she said in a phone interview with The Star.

The matter, said Vardag, would be heard very thoroughly as the English High Court had set two weeks in October for trial over the question of jurisdiction.

On Thursday, English Justice James Holman had urged the couple to negotiate a settlement rather than continue with the legal battle that had reportedly cost Chai more than £1mil (RM5.51mil) and Khoo nearly £750,000 (RM4.13mil) in legal bills.

Vardag said her client was still open to negotiations, adding that the parties had unsuccessfully attempted to reach a settlement before.

“They will have to assess their exposure and consider how much it’s worth compromising to limit that exposure,” she said.

Chai, 66, had filed a divorce petition on Feb 14 last year on grounds of Khoo’s unreasonable behaviour. Khoo, 74, who filed last December, is arguing for the case to be heard here.

The Kuala Lumpur High Court had on Dec 11 last year ruled in Khoo’s favour although the decision was overturned by the Court of Appeal on April 24.

The Court of Appeal then remitted the case to the Kuala Lumpur family court before another judge because there were too many disputed facts in the appeal.

It had been reported that Chai would get less in matrimonial properties and other benefits should the matter be decided according to Malaysian law.

If the divorce was decided in Chai’s favour in the English courts, she might stand to gain half of Khoo’s £500mil (RM2.75bil) fortune.

Chai and Khoo, who married in 1970, have five grown-up children.

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