A Texan property tycoon with a billionaire father has been sentenced to jail for failing to pay the first instalment of his Chelsea-based ex-wife’s £5.8 million divorce settlement.
Preston Haskell IV, son of Preston Haskell III and heir to his vast American construction empire, is locked in a five-year legal battle with Belarusian former model Alesia Vladimirovna Haskell.
It has reached Britain’s Court of Appeal, where Preston Jr’s tried to fight a ruling that he could have paid his first instalment of £50,000 but did not do so.
The failure of their appeal has landed him with a six-week jail sentence, meaning the 55-year-old would be taken to prison if he steps back on English soil.
Ms Haskell had told a judge that her ex-husband’s failure to pay the money – which was due by February 2020 – had left her in such a dire financial situation that she faced losing her home in one of London’s most upmarket boroughs.
The couple had been known for hosting the likes of Elton John, Madonna and Cheryl Cole at lavish parties in a £3.3 million apartment in Sloane Square where they moved in 2013.
Mr Justice Mostyn said the pair enjoyed a ‘superior lifestyle’ but their marriage was ‘blighted by the husband’s serial infidelity and abuse of cocaine and alcohol.
Ms Haskell filed for divorce in 2016, prompting a bitter court battle in which Mr Haskell ‘denounced her as a gold digger’ and began a process of ‘financial attrition’.
Mr Haskell complained of having ‘no money at all’ despite his links to high-end property and businesses around the world, including a £6.5 million villa in Cape Town and a stake in a Swedish gold exploration company.
The judge found that Mr Haskell’s finances were ‘opaque’ and slammed his request to account for his ex-wife’s engagement ring while weighing up the value of their respective assets.
He told the court: “The husband was very keen that I should do so asserting that it was worth perhaps £100,000.
“It is bordering on the grotesque that the husband should be expecting the wife to liquidate this ring.”
The tycoon – once reportedly worth £160 million – claimed to have ‘liabilities’ of £50 million and that he was struggling to meet his maintenance obligations.
The judge ruled Mr Haskell could get his hands on enough money to pay the entire £5.8 million divorce settlement and that he should pay the final installment by March 2022.