Daughter of Malaysian tycoon Khoo Kay Peng backs mother in divorce dispute

Pauline Chai, former Miss Malaysia and the estranged wife of Malaysian business tycoon Khoo Kay Peng. -- PHOTO: ST FILE
Pauline Chai, former Miss Malaysia and the estranged wife of Malaysian business tycoon Khoo Kay Peng. -- PHOTO: ST FILE

THE daughter of Malaysian tycoon Khoo Kay Peng says she backs her mother in her parents' divorce case, claming that their marriage was marked by domestic violence.

Khoo, a 74-year-old retail and hotel magnate, and his estranged wife Pauline Chai, 68, are embroiled in a divorce dispute that could potentially result in Britain's largest divorce settlement.

"Ultimately, I feel proud of mum for being so brave, I feel relief, the divorce has given the rest of the family freedom from an oppressive situation, and I feel heartbroken for dad that he's lost his moral compass and awareness of what's important in life," the couple's daughter Angeline Francis, 31, told Malay Mail Online from London.

"My heart is heavy for dad because if his behaviour continues, he'll be alone in his twilight years, estranged from all his kids," said Francis, the fourth of five children.

She told Malay Mail that her parents' divorce started after over four decades of marriage when her mother telephoned her in October 2012 from Rossway - the couple's £30 million (S$62 million) family home in Hertfordshire, England.

"Mum rang and suddenly started telling me everything she'd been holding in for 43 years, in particular about the violence she'd been suffering in the latter part of their marriage; in fact when she rang me, it was from a backroom she'd locked herself into at Rossway after a violent episode. She sounded very scared," Francis was quoted as saying.

Malay Mail reported that Francis detailed her claims in a letter she wrote to the English judge in chambers at the London court last August.

The website said only the couple have been called as witnesses at the hearing in the High Court in Kuala Lumpur which starts on Monday to decide the jurisdiction of the divorce dispute.

Francis also told Malay Mail that one of the most painful things her family has endured was how Khoo, chairman of international brand Laura Ashley, refused to provide financial or medical assistance for her two brothers who suffer from autism and Tourette's syndrome respectively.

"When I asked dad to help them, he refused to acknowledge their disabilities and said they were perfectly fine. He told me he expects them to work and support themselves because that's what men do," she said.

She claimed that her brothers were often forced to live in darkness because they could not afford power bills during the time they lived together in Canada from 2008 to 2012.

Her brother with autism tried to work at McDonald's, but he would injure himself and could not keep up with the pace. He eventually got fired, according to the report.

Francis said she then helped him apply for welfare and disability assistance. He was in the final stages of the application when he moved to England in 2012 to stay with their mother, who used her allowance from Khoo to support him and her other brother who suffers from Tourette's. That brother still lives in Canada and is often unable to pay bills for water or electricity, according to Frances.

The brothers are not named to protect their identities, according to Malay Mail.

Francis also claimed her father had cut off contact with her for four years because she married a man of Caribbean origin. He re-established contact with her in 2012, although he still refused to accept her husband and told her he would have nothing to do with any children they have.

"He told me if I carried on our relationship, I would be alone as he'd have nothing to do with me. I got engaged some time after that and dad disowned me. During this time, he also banned mum from having anything to do with me and threatened divorce if she didn't comply," she was quoted as saying.

Francis said the last time she spoke to her father was in February last year because he was allegedly angry with her for not influencing one of her siblings to do something he wanted.

The tycoon and his estranged wife are battling over the jurisdiction of the divorce, with the billionaire fighting to have it heard in Malaysia while Chai wants the case heard in London.

Under British law, Chai stands to win half of the tycoon's estimated £400 million fortune, potentially the largest divorce settlement in Britain.

She gained the upper hand last month when London's High Court ruled that it could hear the case. The former beauty queen had earlier told the court that she kept 700 pairs of her 1,000 pairs of shoes in Hertfordshire, England, to support her claim that their divorce case should be heard in London.

But Khoo is pressing forward with a hearing at the Kuala Lumpur High Court.