Court hears Rocca life policy dispute

Businessman Bernard Rocca has claimed he is the beneficiary of a life policy with Hibernia Aviva Life taken out by his late brother Patrick.

Businessman Bernard Rocca has claimed he is the beneficiary of a life policy with Hibernia Aviva Life taken out by his late brother Patrick.

Wed, Feb 13, 2013, 00:00

A dispute between Danske Bank and businessman Bernard Rocca over a €1.27 million life insurance policy of his late brother Patrick Rocca Jnr came before the High Court yesterday.

Mr Rocca claims he is the beneficiary of a life policy with Hibernia Aviva Life on the life of Patrick, who died tragically in January 2009.

Danske Bank, trading as National Irish Bank, claims it is entitled to the policy proceeds to pay off some €1.5 million outstanding on a €3.85 million mortgage loan advanced to Patrick Rocca and his wife Annette in 2006.

The bank claims Bernard Rocca had in 2004 assigned the policy to a company, Brentwood Properties Ltd, of which the shares were beneficially owned by Patrick Rocca and Accorp Properties Ltd. The shares of Accorp are owned by the estate of the late Patrick Rocca and his wife.

The banks claims Brentwood assigned the benefit of the life policy at the centre of the dispute to Patrick Rocca. That policy and others were assigned to the bank as security for the €3.85 million loan, it alleges.

Bernard Rocca disputes the bank’s claim and denies he assigned his benefit in the policy to any other party. He claims the bank has no lawful title to the proceeds of the policy and it should be paid to him.

The case before Mr Justice Paul Gilligan opened yesterday and is expected to last for several days.

Opening the action, Ross Maguire SC, for Mr Rocca, said the policy was one of a number of such policies taken out as part of a complex scheme by members of the Rocca family during the 1990’s when the firms were being restructured.

The scheme involved the three Rocca children - Patrick Jnr, Bernard and Laura - who worked in the tiling business established by their father Patrick Snr and was set up to keep all the companies within the Rocca family should one of them pass away, he said.

Counsel said the premia of the policy at issue were paid every month by a company controlled by the Roccas. Bernard Rocca had not assigned his interest in the policy to Brentwood or Patrick or anyone else, he said.

The late Patrick Rocca had represented to the bank he was entitled to assign the interest in the policy as security for the loan but all the bank had was this oral assurance, Mr Maguire said.

It was not provided with any documentation to back these assurances prior to Mr Rocca’s death.

Prior to granting the mortgage, the bank had not seen Bernard’s purported assignment to Brentwood or the policy itself and only sought those documents later, he said.

The bank only appeared to have a photocopy of Bernard Rocca’s purported assignment of the policy to Brentwood, he added.