Businessman Sir Frederick Barclay is waiting to see whether he will be penalised after a judge ruled he was in contempt of court as a result of failing to give nearly £250,000 to his ex-wife.
Lady Hiroko Barclay, 79, had asked Sir Jonathan Cohen to hand 87-year-old Sir Frederick a jail term after arguing that he had breached court orders to pay her more than £100 million following the breakdown of their 34-year marriage.
She said he had not paid the first of two £50 million lump sums as ordered and owed £185 000 to cover the cost of her legal bills and £60,000 in maintenance.
Lady Barclay argued that Sir Frederick had the means to pay but had not paid.
Sir Jonathan ruled that Sir Frederick was not in contempt as a result of not paying the first of the two £50 million lump sums.
He concluded that Lady Barclay had not proved that Sir Frederick had the means to pay.
But the judge ruled that Sir Frederick was in contempt as a result of not paying the money he owed for legal fees and maintenance – after concluding that he had the means to pay those sums.
Sir Jonathan made the rulings after considering the latest stage of a dispute over money between Sir Frederick and Lady Barclay at a public hearing in the Family Division of the High Court in London.
He said he would consider whether penalties might be imposed at a follow-up hearing next month.
Lawyers said outside court that Sir Jonathan could hand Sir Frederick a jail sentence.
Lady Barclay had told Sir Jonathan that Sir Frederick had the means to pay all the money he owed but was aiming to “string things out” until “one or other of us dies”.
Sir Frederick had said he did not have access to funds – and said money was held in trusts.
Lawyer Marcus Dearle, who represents Sir Frederick, had told the judge that “all steps” had been taken to raise money owed.
Sir Frederick and his twin Sir David were among the UK’s most high-profile businessmen.
Their business interests including Telegraph Media Group and The Ritz hotel in London.
Sir David died in January last year, aged 86.
Control of the Barclay group has passed of other members of the family.
Sir Jonathan suggested, in a written ruling, that the litigation should be a “matter of honour” to the Barclay family.
He said Sir Frederick and Sir David had “amassed a fortune” through their business activities”.
“In 2014, the two brothers set about dividing what they had so as to make provision for the next generation and with the intention of avoiding tax liabilities arising either in life or on death,” he said.
“This took the form of a web of highly complex overseas trust arrangements.”
He said the “family fortune built up by the two brothers” was divided equally between three of Sir David’s sons and Sir Frederick’s daughter, Amanda.
He added: “Thus it was that one side of the family had 75% of the wealth and the other 25%, all of it held through complicated trust structures.”
The judge discussed the involvement of Sir Frederick’s nephews in the divorce litigation and said they had not assisted in finding a “solution”.
He said it had not been suggested that anyone except Sir David’s sons – other than Sir Frederick’s daughter – were the “true ultimate beneficial owners of the underlying assets”.
The judge said the three men had “ultimate control beneficially of 75% of the businesses”.
But he added: “I have heard nothing from them except, tellingly, by way of statements in support of (an) application that would have the effect of removing from this public hearing the power of the media and others to make reference to a huge raft of evidence which they describe as confidential information.”
He went on: “… it is very striking that rather than assist in finding a solution to what should be a matter of honour to this family they refuse to provide information, hiding behind the walls of the trust structure, whilst spending over £1 million in subsidising Sir Frederick’s legal fees and no doubt a very large sum on their own fees to try to avert the gaze of the media.”