KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 24 — As the high-profile divorce settlement between Malaysian billionaire Tan Sri Khoo Kay Peng and Pauline Chai plays out in public, British courts have issued an order to forcibly transfer a sum of over RM780,000 from the tycoon’s banking account to the former beauty queen, her lawyer Edmund Bon said today.

The court order supposedly spares Khoo from going to jail in the UK, Bon told Malay Mail Online, saying Chai wants to give her estranged husband a “chance” to settle the outstanding financial support owed her.

According to the lawyer, Khoo had failed to comply with an earlier court order late last year to financially support Chai with £110,000 per month (RM594,029) during their ongoing divorce after over 40 years of marriage.

With Khoo now owing a total of £440,000 to Chai after missing payments since October last year, the UK court yesterday ordered the seizure and transfer of the entire £144,874 (RM782,358.31) in the businessman’s Maybank account to the Miss Malaysia 1969 winner, Bon said.

But in the same period where Khoo has failed to pay Chai, the Malayan United Industries Bhd (MUI) chairman’s wealth has grew, with his share values in various business holdings rising by around £18 million since last November, Bon said.

“So you have a situation where the shares actually have increased and there’s a court order in the UK and he’s not complying with the court order,” the lawyer said.

Khoo’s share values in MUI and in Laura Ashley went up by £15.5 million and £3.4 million respectively, he said.

Khoo, who is also a Laura Ashley non-executive director, was ordered yesterday to give “full disclosure” of his finances by producing six months’ worth of bank statements.

The businessman has also agreed to give at least 10 days notice to Chai’s lawyers if he intends to dispose his shares in MUI and Laura Ashley, Bon said.

Initially Chai had wanted to seek the freezing of Khoo’s assets worldwide, but this has been put on hold after Khoo agreed to the above disclosures, Bon said.

A judgment debtor summons proceedings that could have put Khoo in jail for the outstanding payments, has also been deferred, he said.

Bon agrees that his client may find it difficult to continue with her divorce cases in court if Khoo fails to pay up the financial support, saying that this appears to be an alleged attempt to “stifle her access to justice”.

Out of the £110,000 monthly payments ordered by the UK court, £50,000 is for Chai’s maintenance pending the divorce while the remaining £60,000 is to fund her legal battles.

The actual divorce cases in both Malaysia and the UK have yet to start, as both Khoo and Chai are still appealing in both countries on which court is the best forum to hear and decide on their divorce case.

In their acrimonious billion-ringgit divorce battle, Chai is fighting to have the trial heard in the UK where she stands to gain half of the magnate’s estimated £400 million fortune, possibly the largest divorce settlement in British history.

Khoo, however, is applying to have the case heard in Malaysia, arguing that they were married in Malaysia where he also maintains his official residence.

Khoo would risk losing less of his wealth if the trial is held here.