A WIFE gave a builder £600,000 so she could hide the money from her husband but he’s refusing to give it back, it has been reported.
Sarah Byrne, 47, was left a £1million inheritance from her father’s business but wanted to keep it from husband Tony, who she wanted to divorce.
Builder Stephen Howie, 58, said she could transfer £600,000 to him and would return it on demand, the High Court in London heard.
But he has now fled to Japan and refusing to pay the money back after the couple reconciled, arguing it was an investment, the court was told.
A judge has now ruled that Mr Howie is lying and has now ordered him to give the money back, the Daily Mail reported.
They had met after she and her husband moved to Camberley in Surrey and he gave a quote for extension work to their house.
Mother-of-three Mrs Byrne considered him a friend and confided in him when she was contemplating divorcing her husband, a chief finance officer at a technology firm.
High Court judge Simon Monty QC said in his judgment: “Mr Howie said he had been through two divorces, and advised [Mrs Byrne] she needed to place her assets out of reach of her husband, because he would get half.
“Mrs Byrne says that she was anxious, depressed, isolated and sleep-deprived, and the advice Mr Howie gave her increased her feelings of anxiety.
“She feared she would be left with nothing after the divorce.”
According to the judgement, Mr Howie had told the Mrs Byrne that a judge friend of his advised people going through a divorce to give money to a friend as a gift and get it back when it was over.
The ruling said the builder told Mrs Byrne it would be safer if he disguised the money as an investment in his business.
He drew up documents indicating she was buying a 20 per cent share and despite friends advising her not to, she transferred the cash to him in January.
But her and her husband went on a family holiday and agreed to stay together so she asked Mr Howie for the money back.
She told her husband about the £600,000, and asked Mr Howie for it back but he refused even after she employed solicitors in a bid to recover it.
Judge Monty rejected Mr Howie’s evidence and ordered him to repay the money though he said Mrs Bryne’s “dishonest’ agreement had been a “sham” designed to conceal the cash.
Mr Howie has been contacted for comment.
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