O'Donnell claims senior Bank of Ireland executive 'consumed by animosity'
Senior Bank of Ireland executive Des Hanrahan is “consumed by animosity”, property investor Brian O’Donnell, who is fighting a bid by the bank to stop him becoming bankrupt in Britain, has declared.
Launching a series of bitter attacks, Mr O’Donnell, before Mr Justice Newey in the High Court in London, said his advisers had expressed their belief that Mr Hanrahan “did not care if [the bank] did not recover any money. “They said that he was just interested in pursuing us,” said Mr O’Donnell, who finished giving evidence in the case that will decide whether he and his wife are properly resident in Britain under EU rules to be able to declare bankruptcy there.
“There has been this notion put abroad that we were unco-operative and had not acted in the bank’s interests,” he said, pointing in his defence to the sale of the headquarters of the UK’s department of education for more than Bank of Ireland had expected to get.
Condemning a series of bank executives, he said: “Mr [Richie] Boucher wasn’t for listening; Mr Burke [a bank executive] wasn’t for listening; Mr Hanrahan never listened.”
Later, he said it appeared at times that the principal interest was not to recover money.
The bank, he said, had refused to agree to a slow and considered disposal of the assets built by Vico Capital, and, instead, rushed matters, causing “the assets to be distressed and, therefore, the price goes down”.
The bank’s actions had caused losses for other investors, including Morgan Stanley and Metropolitan Life, who had joined Mr O’Donnell in buying offices in Britain, Washington and Stockholm, before the credit crisis caused his business to collapse.
Mr O’Donnell and his wife, Mary Patricia, claimed their centre of main interest had been in London since 2005, from which time the majority of their business was conducted in London, even though they lived for some of that time in the family home, Gorse Hill in Dalkey.
However, the couple did not pay British taxes during that time, and have only recently registered to do so, though Mr O’Donnell said Britain was where the couple had four of the last five Christmases and New Year celebrations and “where our family all joined us”.
He denied the couple had acted in an underhand way last March when they lodged a petition for bankruptcy in London, saying all efforts to agree a deal with the Bank of Ireland “in 14 or 15 meetings” had failed completely.
But he said they had been advised it was “highly unlikely” the petition would have been granted on that day because of “the size of the indebtedness” and the “virulence” of the bank.
However, counsel for the bank Gabriel Moss pointed out the couple had not told the bank of their intention. Replying, Mr O’Donnell said the bank had “subsequently” been told.