Couple cannot sue developer here for cash invested in Bulgarian resort

 

THE HIGH Court has ruled that a couple cannot sue an Irish developer in the courts here for €215,000 which they claim to have paid as a deposit for 14 apartments and two commercial units in a Bulgarian resort project which allegedly ran into financial difficulties.

While they were not entitled to bring the action here, John and Temi Uwen, Feltham, Middlesex, England, had been treated "shabbily" by developer Neil O'Reilly of Platinum Developments, Beacon Court, Sandyford, Dublin, Ms Justice Elizabeth Dunne said.

Because of this, the couple would not have to pay costs of yesterday's hearing, she directed.

Ms Justice Dunne was granting an application by Mr O'Reilly to strike out the case against him after she agreed the Irish courts did not have jurisdiction to hear the matter under EU regulations, and that Bulgaria was where the legal action should be pursued.

The Uwens, who represented themselves, argued that the case should be heard in Ireland because Mr O'Reilly is a citizen of this State and conducts business from here.

Mr and Mrs Uwen had said they remortgaged their home in England in 2003 to invest in the Pomorie Golf and Beach Resort in Bulgaria, owned by a Dutch company, NV Capital Ground and Building Investment (CGBI). It was developing the lands through a holding company.

The Uwens say they paid CGBI €215,000 for 14 apartments and two commercial units, representing 20 per cent deposits on the purchase, and received receipts.

In mid-2004 the Dutch authorities froze CGBI's assets after it hit financial difficulties. Works ceased with about one-tenth of the complex complete, Daniel Simms, for Mr O'Reilly, told the court.

Mr Simms said Mr O'Reilly, whose Platinum Developments firm had acted as a selling agent for CGBI, put together a team of investors to "salvage" the project, and they acquired the CGBI holding company. This firm's name was changed to Sunset Resort OOD and, in letters to the Uwens, Mr O'Reilly said he was the owner of Sunset.

In an affidavit, Mr O'Reilly said the Uwens were offered options on how to deal with their investment, and they chose repayment on completion of the development.

Mr O'Reilly denied they were entitled to receive €215,000, and said the amount was just €12,800. CGBI had informed Sunset the Uwens had paid that latter amount, he said in his affidavit.

Because the Uwens had chosen a refund on completion, they had no contract with him and acceptance of this option stipulated that the laws of Bulgaria would apply in any dispute, he said.

The Uwens claimed Mr O'Reilly repeatedly ignored letters seeking a refund and was "deliberate" in trying to avoid refunding them.

If Mr O'Reilly was sued in the Bulgarian courts, he would say there was no contract between his firm and the couple, they said. Despite Mr O'Reilly saying in May 2007 that the resort was complete, they had not been repaid.

Ms Justice Dunne said she could not see how the action could be litigated here. It was undoubtedly the case that the Uwens had not been repaid the €215,000 and had been treated "very shabbily by Sunset Resort OOD and Mr O'Reilly".