Bank order prevents Brian O’Donnell dissipating funds

Retired solicitor cannot move estimated £6m from London property sale after emergency High Court order

Bank of Ireland has obtained an emergency High Court order preventing retired solicitor Brian O'Donnell dissipating an estimated £6 million sterling (€7.7 million) expected from the sale of a valuable London commercial property.

The bank, which secured a €70 million judgment in 2011 against Mr O'Donnell and his wife Mary Patricia arising from property investment debts, applied ex-parte (one side only represented) to Mr Justice John Hedigan for the order yesterday.

The bank asked for an order restraining publication of reports of its application until next Wednesday because it was taking separate legal action in the British Virgin Islands (BVI) against three BVI-registered companies, whose directors are the O'Donnells' adult sons, Blake and Bruce.

The judge refused to ban publication before Wednesday but said a restraint on publication would apply until 9pm yesterday so the BVI proceedings could take place earlier in the day.

The judge was told the bank fears proceeds due to the O’Donnells from the imminent sale of the Columbus Courtyard building in London will go to the BVI companies and be put out of the bank’s reach.

The O’Donnell parents were declared bankrupt in December 2013.

Cian Ferriter SC, for the bank, said his client learned in the last few days from a UK auctioneer’s website that the sale of Columbus Courtyard, for £132 million, was “under offer”.

Shares The O’Donnell parents had previosly told the bank, they owned Columbus Courtyard through a UK firm whose shareholdings ultimately reside in a BVI company called Haversgate, counsel said. They later claimed the Haversgate shares were held in trust for their son Blake. The bank asserts this was a sham designed to defeat the bank’s claim for €70 million, he said.

While the property sale would appear to be for £132 million, the bank estimates only around £6 million would come to the O’Donnell companies because there are substantial debts to other lenders in relation to that building, he said.

While the O’Donnells previously gave undertakings in relation to dealings in the BVI interests, the bank was concerned these undertakings were no longer enough.

Mr Justice Hedigan returned the matter to next week.

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