Bank claims O'Donnells tried to put €255m assets beyond reach
BANK OF Ireland has alleged fraud against solicitor Brian O’Donnell, his wife Mary Patricia and two adult sons over allegedly conspiring to put in place a “blatant” scheme to put assets worth more than £200 million (€255 million) beyond its reach.
Cian Ferriter SC, for the bank, secured leave from Mr Justice Peter Kelly yesterday to serve short notice on Mr and Mrs O’Donnell and their sons Bruce and Blake of the bank’s application to the Commercial Court this Monday to have the action fast-tracked.
The bank was alleging fraud against the four over “a blatant fraudulent scheme” carefully put in place in recent months in the teeth of the bank’s efforts to execute a €75 million judgment obtained against Brian and Mary Patricia O’Donnell, counsel said.
This scheme was intended to put assets beyond the bank’s reach and the extent of the fraud only became clear during the judgment enforcement process, particularly during the court examination of Brian O’Donnell and from discovery of documents, Mr Ferriter said.
The fraud proceedings mainly relate to Mr and Mrs O’Donnell’s interest in two substantial properties in London – Columbus Courtyard, Canary Wharf and Westferry Circus – and what the bank describes as “significant management income” being earned from Columbus Courtyard and another property, Chalet Hermine, Courchevel, France.
The bank says the couple have valued the Columbus Courtyard property at some £124.5 million and the value of the properties involved exceeds more than £200 million.
Among various claims, the bank contends Mr O’Donnell was not truthful when examined in court about certain alleged trusts which the bank regarded as a sham.
Mr Ferriter said, from documents discovered last month, the bank could see a series of steps that seemed to have the effect of moving assets through British Virgin Islands companies to Blake O’Donnell and involving companies whose directors were Blake and Bruce. The effect of this was to put assets out of the estate of their parents, he said.
While the bank had received some “limited comfort” from letters for solicitors for Bruce and Blake indicating they would not take certain steps, the bank wanted those indications converted into undertakings to the court, counsel said.
The matter was urgent because there was “clear evidence” of an assets dissipation scheme which needed to be stopped “in its tracks” and unwound for the benefit of the bank and other creditors of the couple, he said.
Mr Justice Kelly said he was aware of the difficulties experienced by the bank in executing its judgment and he would allow short service of its proceedings on the four O’Donnell’s at addresses at the O’Donnell’s family home, Gorse Hill, Vico Road, Killiney, Co Dublin; Barton House, Barton Street, London, and at a firm of solicitors.
In linked proceedings yet to be heard, the bank is also seeking to determine the value and ownership of the contents of the O’Donnell family home at Gorse Hill and another luxury property at Barton Street, London, where the couple is currently living.
The contents were previously valued in statements of worth for the O’Donnell’s at between €5 million and €7.5 million but Mr O’Donnell has said those valuations were a mistake and “ludicrous”.
The bank claims the contents are owned by the couple and not by trusts as the O’Donnells allege. The alleged trusts are in three companies registered in the Isle of Man and Jersey and the O’Donnells claims their four adult children are the beneficiaries.