Top investment banking wife and stay-at-home husband in £11m divorce battle
A top investment banker and her stay-at-home husband are locked in an £11m divorce battle, after an argument on a family holiday ended their marriage.
House husband, Weng Choy, filed for divorce from his "breadwinner" wife, Lena Tan, in January 2012, after a row days earlier on New Year's Eve, whilst on a family holiday in Singapore, proved the "final straw", lawyers say.
Ms Tan and Mr Choy lived an opulent lifestyle during their 15-year marriage, enjoying homes in Hong Kong and Malaysia, a staggering £1m wine collection and the "jewel in the crown" of their marital assets, an unmortgaged £4.5m apartment in Kensington.
Now Mr Choy, 56, is asking the English courts to hand him a slice of the marital assets - valued by lawyers at £11m - while his wife insists he has no right to divorce her in the UK.
London's Appeal Court heard that the jet-setting "international" couple, whose two sons boarded at English public schools, split up in January 2012, when Mr Choy, 56, filed for divorce in the English High Court, after a blazing row on New Year's Eve 2011.
Mr Choy - who his lawyers say was a banker too, before quitting work to care for the couple's children - claims he sacrificed his own career on behalf of his wife's ambition.
He now wants the UK court to handle the divorce, whilst Ms Tan, 54, a leading hedge fund manager who has worked in the city as well as the far east, has initiated rival divorce proceedings of her own in Malaysia.
James Turner QC, for Ms Tan, 54, who is asking the Appeal Court to block the English divorce, said that following a falling out in London's Holland Park in September 2010, the couple's marriage hit a "crisis" but had survived until it "struck the rock of the row on New Year's Eve 2011" and finally foundered.
A High Court family judge in March 2013 ruled that the husband had been "habitually resident" in London for at least a year before he filed for divorce and so was entitled to end his marriage in the UK.
However, Mr Turner argued that, despite over half the couple's wealth being invested in UK assets, the family judge got it wrong, and ought not to have allowed the divorce to proceed.
He insisted that the husband's "home" had in fact remained in Hong Kong and that the marriage had been intact, despite the Holland Park argument, until the fateful holiday row.
He said: "Married family life between the parties continued to some degree at least, and had Hong Kong as its centre, until a row took place between the parties during a family holiday in Singapore during the Christmas 2011 /New Year 2012 period, following which the husband came to England.
"Clearly, each member of the family in the present case had been habitually resident in Hong Kong where the family home and centre of interests had been located for a considerable period," the barrister said, insisting that the UK divorce be shelved.
He urged the court to pay heed to the "personal convenience" of the wife "as the family breadwinner...bearing in mind the need for her physical presence in Malaysia", and the fact that her husband "is not gainfully employed."
He also complained that it was unfair that, after agreeing to pay £500,000 to her husband from the proceeds of their wine collection, the wife had also been ordered by the High Court to pay him a further £100,000 towards his lawyers' bill from her own half share.
Tim Bishop QC, for the husband, insisted that his home base had been in London since the Holland Park argument in 2010 and told the judges that he had been forming closer and closer ties with the city for the last 20 years.
"When the centre of the husband's interest ceased to be Hong Kong as his connection with Hong Kong broke down upon the end of his marriage, London was the natural and obvious replacement," he said.
"The judge found that they had an international marriage which, from 1998, involved them moving around the world following the wife's work.
"They owned property, they had homes in a number of countries - England, Singapore and Malaysia...but the jewel in the crown of their assets was the South Kensington apartment, worth £4-£4.75m, never mortgaged, never let out," he added.
"After the marriage broke down...the husband's centre of interests ceased to be dictated by the wife's working life.
"London was capable of swiftly becoming the husband's permanent centre of interests after the breakdown of the marriage," he went on, adding that the husband has taken a UK driving test and obtained a full British licence as well as a National Insurance number.
"Having separated from his wife, his connection to Hong Kong fell away and his home, the place he lived, his centre of interest, his habitual residence became London," the barrister concluded.
Mr Bishop added outside court: "Mr Choy was also a banker, but he quit his job to look after the children and to support his wife in her career."
He said the fight on New Year's Eve was the "final straw" after a series of rows, and had not been about any issue in particular.
Lord Justice Leveson, Lord Justice Aikens and Lady Justice Macur reserved their judgement on the case and will give their ruling at a later date.