O’Donnells face two-week deadline in High Court action
Bank of Ireland alleges fraud against couple and sons Bruce and Blake
Brian O’Donnell recently lost appeal against rejection of UK bankruptcy bid. Photograph: Will Oliver
Solicitor Brian O’Donnell and his wife have a maximum of two weeks to enter an appearance to proceedings in which Bank of Ireland has alleged fraud against them and their sons Bruce and Blake over allegedly conspiring to put in place a “blatant” scheme to put property assets in London beyond its reach.
If the couple fail to enter an unconditional appearance by July 16th, they have agreed that orders can be made entering judgment against them in favour of the bank with damages to be assessed later, the Commercial Court heard yesterday. They have also agreed to enter a defence by July 30th.
Lawyers for Bruce and Blake O’Donnell also agreed yesterday that if they fail to enter a defence to the bank’s claim against them by July 30th, judgment will be entered against them in favour of the bank, also with damages to be assessed later.
Cian Ferriter SC, for the bank, told Mr Justice Peter Kelly the four O’Donnells had agreed to the consent orders in the last few minutes before the court hearing yesterday.
That agreement was without prejudice to the defendants’ right to seek a stay from the Supreme Court on the proceedings against them, counsel added.
The defendants had also agreed the bank was entitled to costs against them of its applications for judgment in default of appearance and defence. Mr Ferriter had previously argued the failure to enter appearances and/or defence and other various applications were efforts by the defendants to try to create “a limbo situation” so the case could not move on.
Lawyers for Blake and Bruce O’Donnell previously asked the judge to defer hearing the bank’s application until the Supreme Court hears their appeal against the rejection of their claim the High Court cannot deal with the bank’s case. They also indicated an application may be taken to the European Court of Justice. The judge refused to defer and fixed the bank’s application for hearing yesterday when it was dealt with by the various consent orders. Assuming the appearances and defence are lodged as agreed, he made further directions to progress the main hearing.
Last October, Mr Justice Peter Charleton ruled the O’Donnells had no grounds for their “misplaced” application asking the High Court to decline to hear the bank’s proceedings because of other matters before the courts of England and Wales.
Brian and Mary Patricia O’Donnell recently lost an appeal against the rejection of their bid to secure bankruptcy in the UK. Bank of Ireland’s petition to have them adjudicated bankrupt here will be heard later this month.
The bank’s proceedings alleging conspiracy and fraud arise from its claim the O’Donnells acted unlawfully to make themselves “judgment proof” following a €71 million judgment being entered in the Commercial Court against Brian and Mary Patricia O’Donnell.
The bank claims the ownership of two London properties was moved on by the defendants either through dilution of the share capital or holding shares via a trust. One of the properties is Columbus Courtyard, owned by Havergate Investments, registered in the British Virgin Islands and managed by Kennor Advisory. The second property is Westferry Circus, in effect owned by Hibernia 2005. The O’Donnells deny the claims.