An Irish developer has lost his Supreme Court appeal over an order that he pay some €1.57 million damages over a luxury hotel and resort in the Caribbean left unfinished and in "a complete mess".
Padraig (Paudie) O'Halloran had appealed over a range of High Court findings, including that he diverted some $1.48 million paid to two companies in his ICE Group for the Buccament Bay resort to his personal bank accounts in Ireland.
The High Court found further payments of about €150,000 were made from his companies to 'Weddings by Franc' for his wedding in Adare Manor, Limerick, which ultimately did not take place.
The findings against Mr O'Halloran were made in proceedings brought by two Caribbean companies – Harlequin Property SVG Ltd and Harlequin Hotels and Resorts Ltd, owned by David Ames of Essex, England – over alleged misappropriation of monies paid by them to the ICE companies for works to the resort.
A three judge Supreme Court, in a judgment on Friday, unanimously dismissed his appeal over the findings. Mr O'Halloran, aged in his 40s and with an address at Sandy Lane, Barbados, represented himself during the appeal. Final orders will be made later.
Mr Justice John MacMenamin, giving the judgment, said this was in essence a “fact case” where the High Court judge was fully entitled to accept evidence upon which he made “sustainable findings” and correctly directed himself on the relevant law. There are occasions when those involved in construction projects make assurances to clients about deadlines which turn out to be “over-optimistic”, he said.
Features about the evidence in this case had caused the trial judge to take a “less sanguine” view and raised what happened “to a different order of seriousness”, beyond mere negligent misrepresentation or breach of contract. The trial judge was entitled to reach those conclusions, he held.
Mr Justice MacMenamin noted there have been associated proceedings in the English and Welsh courts against Wilkins Kennedy, a firm of accountants originally retained by Harlequin. In his 2013 High Court judgment, Mr Justice Brian McGovern had held that other payments totalling $258,000 were also made from Mr O’Halloran’s companies to the Irish bank accounts of his father, Donal O’Halloran, ostensibly to repay loans which Mr O’Halloran claimed were made to him by his father some years earlier.
Mr Justice McGovern was satisfied Donal O’Halloran was not knowingly a party to any misappropriation of the plaintiffs funds. In assessing damages against Padraig O’Halloran only, the judge said he had regard to all payments which were misappropriation of funds paid by the Harlequin companies to the ICE companies as a result of fraudulent misrepresentation and deceit by Padraig O’Halloran.
There was also “persuasive” evidence Mr O’Halloran was diverting other substantial sums paid by Harlequin for other matters unconnected with Buccament Bay, including to buy a private jet, a racetrack in St Lucia, expensive gifts including a $65,000 diamond ring for his girlfriend, a quarry and renting an expensive mansion in Barbados.
Those matters were not part of the case taken by Harlequin in the Irish High Court but were offered as evidence corroborating the misappropriation of funds.
The Irish case was part of a multi-jurisdictional fraud claim arising from the Buccament Bay project and arose after the two Ice Group companies agreed with Harlequin in 2008 to complete the Buccament Bay resort after another company was dismissed following issues including alleged misappropriation of funds.
Harlequin alleged, between 2008 and June 2010, Mr O’Halloran misappropriated for his own personal benefit more than $13.5 million of some $50 million paid to the Ice Group companies – ICE Group (SVG) Ltd and Cellate Caribbean (SVG) Ltd – for the resort and lived a “very lavish” lifestyle at their expense. It was claimed some $2.25 million was diverted to Ireland.