- David Thursfield, 67, is a wanted man after a High Court judge sentenced him in his absence to two years’ jail for failing to disclose his alleged hidden wealth
- Lawyers say the prison term will serve as a stark warning to husbands who try to stop their ex-partners sharing their riches
A tycoon accused of hiding a multi-million-pound fortune from his former wife in an acrimonious divorce battle has been sentenced to two years in jail.
Lawyers say the prison term, the longest of its kind, will serve as a stark warning to husbands who defy the courts in an effort to stop their ex-partners sharing their riches.
The man at the centre of the case is David Thursfield, a 67-year-old cigar-chomping former boss at the Ford motor company.
He was nicknamed Darth Vader by colleagues for his role in closing Ford’s Dagenham factory in 2002.
His fearsome reputation for cost-cutting helped him earn a salary of up to £1.2 million a year and a jet-set lifestyle which included the use of a string of luxury properties in exotic locations around the world.
But he is now a wanted man after a High Court judge sentenced him in his absence to two years’ jail for ‘a continuing failure’ to disclose his alleged hidden wealth in a case which his ex-wife of 27 years brought against him.
Last night Mr Thursfield’s ex-wife Linda, 61, a British-born dental surgeon, blamed the break-up of the marriage on her husband’s interest in Rachel Measures, 40, whom he married after their divorce settlement was finalised in 2005.
Speaking from her home in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, she said: ‘I’d moved all over the world with David and I’d given up my profession for him. It was like I’d passed my expiration date and he was trading me in for a younger model.’
The Thursfields met when he was a plant manager with British Leyland in the Midlands in the Seventies.
The couple married in Birmingham and during his career he landed top jobs in Australia, Spain, Essex, Germany and the US.
Mrs Thursfield filed for divorce in the US while her husband was based at Ford’s Detroit headquarters. In 2005 she agreed a cash settlement of £1.1 million and their heavily mortgaged mansion in a Detroit suburb.
According to the High Court judgment, when he was asked in 2009 by a Michigan court about reasons for ‘strange dealings’ with a £2.5 million loan deposited into a Swiss bank account, he said: ‘Because I did not want to be encumbered by you people and constrained on what I do with any of the money that I earned or borrowed. It becomes tiresome when you meddle in my affairs.’
High Court Judge Charles Purle QC ruled that Mr Thursfield ‘deliberately refused to say what had happened’ to the £3.5 million from Cerberus.
The judge added that ‘millions of dollars appears to have vanished . . . I am satisfied that the husband is deliberately refusing to reveal what happened to it.’
Ruling that Mr Thursfield was in contempt of court, the judge said he was imposing a punitive sentence ‘as a coercive measure in order to encourage full and prompt compliance hereafter’.
Last night Amanda McAlister, a family law expert at international law firm Slater & Gordon, said: ‘This judgment undoubtedly will send shivers up the spine of husbands and wives whose strategy is to hide assets.’
Last night a spokesman for Mr Thursfield said: ‘David is appealing [against the prison sentence] and maintains that the original settlement was more than adequate.’
SOURCE: Daily Mail