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London - A wealthy divorcee who loaned her Romanian toyboy lover £500 000 (about R8.6 million) to buy a flat is taking him to court to get the cash back, it emerged on Friday.

Christiane Shellard, 66, wanted to help 29-year-old Cristian Mihalea turn his life around.

During their 18-month relationship, she gifted him the cash to buy the flat in west London, bought him expensive watches and cars and even helped to pay his father’s medical bills.

But London’s High Court heard that Mihalea never bought the apartment. Instead, he claimed he blew the cash on online gambling, a bad gold deal and jewellery.

Mrs Shellard says she loaned the money to Mihalea, but he insists it was a gift. She is suing him to force him to return the cash. At a hearing to freeze Mihalea’s assets this week, the hairdresser told the court he had just £13 000 (about R224 000) of assets to his name. These included £7 400 (about R128 000) in a Lloyds account and a £4 000 (about about R70 000) Cartier watch that Mrs Shellard gave him.

But Judge Nicholas Cooke said Mrs Shellard’s lawyers believed that to be a ‘pack of lies.’

He agreed to freeze Mihalea’s assets worldwide ahead of a trial so Mrs Shellard’s lawyers could investigate what had happened to the money.

The judge told Mihalea: "You’re not going to get away from the juggernaut that’s approaching by saying, 'It’s too late, I have spent all the money'. They will find whether you still have the money. The claim is that you are telling a pack of lies."

The court heard that Mrs Shellard, a mother-of-one from Walton-on-Thames in Surrey, divorced her husband, the boss of a head-hunting firm for financial markets, in 2013. She met Mihalea, who was working as a man-with-a-van running errands from Heathrow Airport, three years later.

She claims she gave him up to £750 000 (nearly R13 million) worth of cash and gifts, including a Porsche Panamera and £160 000 (about R2.7 million) meant for his father’s medical bills, during their brief time together. Mrs Shellard’s barrister, Ross Fentem, said Mihalea had ‘salted away’ the cash in bank accounts in his homeland. He had also bought his sister Mirela a £42 000 (R725 000) GLS Mercedes.

Mihalea, who now lives in a riverside flat in Battersea, south-west London, runs the Vos hair and beauty salon in Fulham.

A source told The Sun that he told friends he bought the flat two months ago for £50 000. It is registered in his sister’s name.

"He claimed his cash came from a relative who had sold a field," the source said. "He fancies himself as a big shot, swaggering around claiming he is going to be the next Richard Branson. In reality, he is a fantasist."

In 2014, Mihalea appeared in a newspaper article boasting of being a successful businessman who had spent £37 000 on £250-a-time prostitutes.

He said at the time: "I’m young, I’m good-looking and successful – so why shouldn’t I be allowed to enjoy my freedom? If I were to have a girlfriend, she would have to be very independent and willing to stand on her own two feet."