Solicitor and family lose bid to halt fraud case at the High Court
SOLICITOR BRIAN O’Donnell, his wife and two adult sons have lost their bid to stop the Irish High Court dealing with proceedings by Bank of Ireland alleging fraud.
The action against them alleges they conspired to put in place a “blatant” scheme to put property assets in London beyond its reach.
Mr Justice Peter Charleton ruled yesterday that the couple and their sons Bruce and Blake had established no grounds for their “misplaced” application asking the High Court here to decline to hear the proceedings because of other matters before the courts of England and Wales.
The judge found that all four O’Donnells are ordinarily resident in Ireland. Even if all four were not ordinarily resident here, Bruce O’Donnell was indisputably domiciled here as he is a student enrolled in university here, the judge said.
While Bank of Ireland had secured a charge from the English courts over a valuable property at Westferry Circus, London, as part of its efforts to recover a €71 million judgment against Mr and Mrs O’Donnell, he did not consider it reasonable to conclude the UK courts would ever consolidate the Irish proceedings with the enforcement procedure, he said.
That was because the bank’s Irish proceedings allege conspiracy and fraud relating to a claim that the O’Donnells acted unlawfully to make themselves “judgment proof” following the uncontested €71 million judgment entered here against Brian and Mary Patricia O’Donnell, he said.
That issue extended to all of their assets, not just Westferry Circus, where an issue might arise in England and Wales as to enforcement.
The bank initiated the action last July as part of its efforts to recover the judgment entered against Mr and Mrs O’Donnell in December 2011. The judgment arose from unpaid property loans.
The bank contends the ownership of two London properties was moved on by the defendants, either through dilution of the share capital or by holding shares via a trust. One of the properties is Columbus Courtyard, an office building owned by Havergate Investments, which is registered in the British Virgin Islands (BVI), and managed by another BVI-registered company, Kennor Advisory.
The second property is Westferry Circus, effectively owned by a company, Hibernia 2005.
The O’Donnells deny the bank’s claims. The bank secured a charge from the UK courts over Hibernia 2005 earlier this year but the O’Donnells have disputed its entitlement to that.
In separate proceedings yesterday, lawyers for the four O’Donnell children asked Mr Justice Peter Kelly to strike out as inadmissible sections of a witness statement tendered on behalf of the bank in proceedings over ownership of the contents of the O’Donnell family home at Gorse Hill, Vico Road, Killiney. The motion was adjourned to a later date when Paul Gardiner SC will reply on behalf of the bank.