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27 January 2015

Former beauty queen complains she is too poor to decorate dolls' houses

A former beauty queen embroiled in a divorce battle with the multimillionaire chairman of Laura Ashley has complained that she can no longer afford to spend thousands of pounds on dolls’ houses, reports The Telegraph.

Pauline Chai, 68, told a judge that since her split from Khoo Kay Peng, she had been forced to give up her “expensive” hobby, and only spent £450 a month on having her hair cut.

In court, she demanded £85,000 a month from her 76-year-old ex-husband to cover her “needs”, including first-class flights, suites at five-star hotels and chauffeurs. Lawyers for Dr Khoo described her request as “staggering”.

But Mrs Justice Roberts rejected Ms Chai’s claims of a “frugal existence”. The former Miss Malaysia 1969 will have to get by on £50,000 a month, she ruled at the High Court yesterday.

The legal battle has already taken more than a year and cost nearly £3 million.

The court heard that although the couple, who have five children, married in Malaysia in 1970 and spent 42 years together, both agreed there had been tensions for much of that time. Miss Chai has claimed Dr Khoo is worth more than £400 million and that she should be awarded around half that.

She has insisted she is not interested in money but wants to get away from a “violent” and “oppressive” relationship and has suggested that her husband was also racist. The allegations have been “completely and utterly denied” by Dr Khoo, who also said he did not have those “sort of assets”.

Dr Khoo, who is based in Malaysia, says the marital home was there and he wants a judge in Malaysia to decide the division of money.

He says Ms Chai wants to fight in England for a more generous award.

In October, she told a different judge at another hearing that she owned 1,000 pairs of shoes and that her husband would spend “hours” reading and working while sitting on the lavatory, needing a padded seat after he got backache.

Mrs Justice Roberts said it appeared that between May 2013 and February 2014 Ms Chai had spent £950,000 on “living expenses and outgoings”.

But her lawyers argued that she had “suffered reductions” since the separation. She had stopped physiotherapy, had started to “cut and dye” her own hair, had not been going on holidays or having weekends away and had stopped her “expensive” hobby of renovating dolls’ houses.

In a written judgment, Mrs Justice Roberts said: “I am unable to accept the picture which she paints of a somewhat frugal existence, deprived of the opportunity to socialise with friends and/or to take care adequately of her personal needs in terms of clothing and hairdressing.”

Last year, a judge questioned why the Malaysian couple, who pay no tax in this country, have been allowed to “squeeze out” more important cases while paying a fraction of the costs of the taxpayer-funded court hearings.