After allegedly failing to pay his ex-wife £50 million in one of the largest divorce settlements in UK history, the reclusive billionaire owner of the Daily Telegraph could be sentenced to prison.
After claiming that the businessman had failed to make payments ordered by the high court, Sir Frederick Barclay’s ex-wife has asked a judge to commit him to prison.
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Sir Frederick, 87, was found in contempt of court, according to Lady Hiroko Barclay, who accused him of failing to comply with court orders relating to the payment of money and the production of documents. Following the breakdown of their 34-year marriage, Lady Barclay was awarded a £100 million settlement earlier this year. Sir Frederick, she now claims, has failed to hand over the first half of the money and has failed to produce relevant documentation. Sir Frederick’s lawyers have indicated that he will defend himself.
Sir Frederick built a business empire that included the Ritz hotel, the delivery company Yodel, and the online retailer Very Group with his deceased twin brother Sir David. In addition to building a castle on their own tax-haven island in the Channel, the couple gained enormous influence in rightwing politics through their ownership of the Daily Telegraph and the Spectator.
However, in recent years, relations within the family have deteriorated. Sir Frederick settled a legal case against his nephews this summer, alleging that they were secretly recording his conversations using a bugging device hidden in the Ritz hotel’s conservatory.
Sir Frederick’s lawyers argued that Lady Barclay’s application should be heard in private because evidence relating to confidential financial information would be made public.
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Sir Frederick’s lawyers argued that Lady Barclay’s application should be heard in private because evidence relating to confidential financial information would be made public. Judge Jonathan Cohen dismissed the application and stated that hearings would be held in public, but that some evidence might need to be heard in private or reporting restrictions imposed. The final hearing, he said, would take place early next year.
In a May ruling, the judge chastised Sir Frederick, saying he had acted in a “reprehensible” manner during the dispute. Sir Frederick had sold a luxury yacht and “applied the equity for his own use,” according to Sir Jonathan, in violation of court orders. Lady Barclay had originally requested £120 million, and Sir Frederick had made an offer that could have resulted in her receiving nothing, according to the judge.
Lady Barclay’s lawyer, Stewart Leech QC, said she was now requesting that Sir Frederick be committed to prison for failing to comply with an order to produce documents and pay the first £50 million of the settlement.
Sir Frederick’s lawyer, Charles Howard QC, said Lady Barclay would have to show her ex-husband had the “means to meet” the £50 million demand and that he had “willfully refused or neglected” to pay.
The hearing was attended by Sir Frederick, who is rarely seen in public, and his ex-wife. The judge said Sir Frederick’s request for a private hearing was “plainly unsustainable,” but that because of Sir Frederick’s age, he would consider a request for a future committal hearing to be held remotely.