Un-brotherly love! Welwyn man, 82, jailed in �500k row
AN 82-YEAR-OLD wheelchair-bound businessman has been jailed over a �500,000 dispute with his 80-year-old brother.
Richard Prosser, who has heart trouble, diabetes, gout and cataracts, was handed a five-month prison term at the High Court on Friday.
That was at the behest of his younger brother Malcolm as a punishment for “spiriting away” thousands of pounds he allegedly owes him, into offshore accounts in Hong Kong.
The brothers went into business together in 1963, but turned on each other when their haulage company went bust in 2006.
Malcolm launched a High Court claim for �500,000 against his sibling last March.
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He claimed Richard had “fraudulently dispersed” �430,000 which had been in the company’s bank account before it folded, leaving it assetless and Malcolm with nothing to show for his life’s work.
In the same month, Malcolm obtained a freezing order on his brother’s one remaining asset – his �450,000 home in St Mary’s Close, Welwyn.
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The order compelled Richard to transfer any cash raised should he sell the house into his brother’s solicitors’ bank account to be held for safekeeping.
Richard sold his home in April last year but, rather than handing over the proceeds, Malcolm says he “spirited them away” into three Hong Kong-based accounts in order to “deprive” him of it.
In June, Malcolm issued an application for his older sibling to be committed to prison for contempt of court.
Guy Tritton, for Malcolm, who lives in Hoddesdon, told the court: “Given a choice between spending time in prison and giving his brother �450,000, many people would be quite prepared to do the time rather than give the money to the brother.
“As an annual salary it’s not bad.
“Mr (Richard) Prosser, we accept, is an elderly man and there are some infirmities.
“But it would not be right for Mr Prosser to use his age to any great advantage if he has deprived his brother of any hope of recouping his money.
“These circumstances do not call for anything less than a substantial prison sentence,” the barrister concluded.
David McIlroy, for Richard, tried to shield his client from being put behind bars, citing the 1869 Debtors Act – which he claimed had the power to prevent him from being jailed for non-payment of an “ordinary debt.”
He also argued Richard, who was also “a director in all but name” of Tottenham Hotspur FC during the 1980s, had been the victim of a “scam” and was now no longer in control of the cash he transferred to Hong Kong, and unable to pay it back.
Mr Justice Vos dismissed the 1869 Debtors Act plea, saying Richard had a chance to pay his debt, but had not done so “through pure willfulness”.
The judge said it was “perfectly clear” Richard had dispersed the money hurridly overseas so his brother could not get his hands on it.
“He said in effect he didn’t feel obliged to dance to the tune of his brother’s solicitors,” Mr Justice Vos said.
“I am not in the business of sending 82-year-olds to prison unless there is a serious contempt to be dealt with in that way, but plainly Richard Prosser was in wholesale breach of the order.
“He knew exactly what he was doing. I am convinced he was deliberately spiriting the money away.”
Although the judge concluded Richard was “a very alert and savvy 82-year-old”, he admitted his age was taken into consideration in sentencing.
“Had he been a healthy and younger man I would have imposed a sentence of 10 months. I have to consider his age and infirmity,” the judge added.
As he waited for the High Court Tipstaff to take him down to the cells, Richard was asked how he felt about his younger sibling.
He replied: “What brother? I don’t have a brother.”