Frederick Barclay ‘terrified’ of jail after judge decides he should stand trial | barclay brothers

Sir Frederick Barclay, whose fortune was estimated at £6billion as recently as May, faces jail at the age of 87 after a High Court judge ruled that he was due to stand trial for non-payment of part of a £100m divorce settlement.

The court heard the former owner of the Telegraph Media Group considered seeking legal aid to fight a divorce battle with his 34-year-old wife.

Barclay, who still owns half of the private island of Brecqhou and whose family sold the Ritz hotel for around £800million in 2020, is now ‘terrified’ of being sent to prison over his non-payment of the £50million owed to his wife last June.

He was also ordered separately and in addition to pay his wife’s legal costs, which are believed to be around £500,000. The court heard that Barclay’s nephews, the sons of his twin brother Sir David Barclay, were paying his legal fees but not his wife’s.

In evidence, Stewart Leech QC, for Hiroko Barclay, said the legal playing field was not a level playing field. “She owes her solicitors over half a million pounds and Sir Frederick Barclay owes his solicitors virtually nothing.”

Earlier this year the court was told that Barclay had also ‘unilaterally halved’ the £60,000 maintenance payment given to his wife each month.

The court heard that Barclay, who started life as a painter and decorator alongside his brother, cannot access his fortune, which is held in a complex series of trusts.

Neither Barclay nor his brother, David, who died last year, were beneficiaries of the family trusts, which are essentially split between Barclay’s daughter, Amanda, and three of David Barclay’s sons.

At the High Court hearing, it was said that Barclay had said he had no control over the complex structure of the trust. “I have nothing,” he said.

Lady Barclay, 78, and Barclay appeared in court via an online link on Thursday, but the judge ordered both sides to appear in person at the three-day hearing scheduled for July because the non-payment is a quasi-criminal offence.

Lawyers representing Barclay have indicated that they will mount a defense against Lady Barclay’s claim.

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Scot Young, a property boss, was one of the few men jailed for contempt of court stemming from non-payment of a divorce order when he was jailed for six months in 2013.

In March, the court was told that Barclay had been evicted from his home. His solicitor, Charles Howard QC, told the court that ‘he has no money and his bank statements…show it’.

Sir Jonathan Cohen, who is hearing the case, slammed Barclay in his final order last May, saying he behaved “improperly” during the litigation after selling his luxury yacht and “applying fairness for its own use” in violation of orders.

At Thursday’s hearing, the Guardian requested that documents from the complex case be released to the media ahead of the largely successful committal hearing.

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