Billionaire Aga Khan to Fight £50 Million Divorce Settlement

When a French court ordered the Aga Khan to pay £50 million to his second wife, it was generally thought the racehorse billionaire and jet-setting spiritual leader had got off lightly.

When a French court ordered the Aga Khan to pay £50 million to his second wife, it was generally thought the racehorse billionaire and jet-setting spiritual leader had got off lightly.

The revelations were an embarrassment for the Aga Khan, whose Ismaeli followers donate significant sums to him and worship him as the 'bringer of light'

Yet the 75-year old Prince Karim, the fourth Aga Khan, has posted a last-minute challenge to September's ruling, prompting lawyers for his estranged wife to accuse him of cutting and running.

The head of the 12 million-strong Ismaeli Muslim community is a British citizen and Swiss taxpayer but lives in France where the former Princess Gabriele zu Leiningen - sued for divorce.

While the settlement set a new French record it paled compared to the Aga Khan's estimated £8 billion personal fortune. It was also far short of the 200 million euros (£166 million) his 48-year old German-born former pop singer wife, now known as the Begum Inaara Aga Khan, had asked for when the pair split in 2004.

But he has now decided to take his case to France's highest court, the Cour de Cassation, which will delay any divorce for at least a year, possibly up to seven.

The unheralded move has sparked intrigue among European high society. The Aga Khan was widely believed to be preparing to marry Beatrice von der Schulenburg. the divorced wife of City recruitment company head Jeffrey von der Schulenburg.

The mother of four and has been close to the Aga Khan for five years.

Instead his second wife who lived in Ascot with their 11-year old son, Prince Aly, until a recent move to Switzerland, retains her titles as Her Highness the Begum Aga Khan.

A lawyer acting for his second wife told Le Figaro, he was concerned the Aga Khan might even leave France altogether and move into Bell Island, a private island in the Bahamas he recently bought and where building work is underway.

"One day, it will no doubt not be easy to obtain the settlement," the lawyer told the newspaper.

September's settlement followed a break-up almost a decade ago, following claims by Begum Inaara that her husband was seeing an air hostess.

Papers filed in the French court revealed that relationship between the Aga Khan and his wife had "irretrievably broken down" within a couple of years of their society wedding on the Aga Khan's estate at Aiglemont, north of Paris, in 1998.

The court ruled that the Begum should receive 60 million euros on the grounds that the couple had a secure relationship for at least two years.

It overturned a lower court award of just £10 million, finding the Aga Khan exclusively at fault for adultery.

He had argued that she had treated her commitments as wife of a spiritual leader with a "guilty lightness", for instance appearing in public in India with a red mark on her forehead – a Hindu sign seen as a provocation to his Muslim followers.

The court papers stated his wife hired a private detective to track his movements with the air hostess. Lawyers for his second spouse also cited his liaison with Miss Schulenburg.

The revelations were an embarrassment for the Aga Khan, whose Ismaeli followers donate significant sums to him and worship him as the"bringer of light'".

Lawyers for the Aga Khan did not return calls.

The Cour de Cassation must now decide whether the latest ruling was legally watertight, failing which it could order a new appeals trial, further dragging out the process.

"He's taking a risk: if anything were to happen to him, she remains his wife," said a source close to the case.