McKillen claims Barclay brothers obtained private details illegally

Developer alleges billionaires accessed his US social security number

Businessman Paddy McKillen has claimed to a Californian court that the billionaire Barclay brothers illegally obtained his US social security and tax number to carry out an illegal credit check that could lead to two-year prison sentences.

Mr McKillen has been involved in a long-running, frequently bitter legal battle with the Barclays for control of three of London's top hotels, Claridges, the Connaught and the Berkeley.

Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, credit rating agencies in the US have the right to collect information about credit worthiness, but people must give consent before companies, or individuals can get sight of it subsequently.

The Belfast-born developer is an Irish citizen but holds US social security and tax numbers because his wife and children live in Laguna Beach in California and he pays taxes on Californian-earned income.

The action has been taken against David and Frederick Barclay; David Barclay's son, Aidan; the Barclay executive, Mr Richard Faber; one of the Barclays' many companies, Ellerman and 10 so far unnamed agents in the US.

During last year’s lengthy legal case, a top Barclays executive, Mr Richard Faber acknow1edged during cross-examination that they had obtained Mr McKillen’s details.

The information had been obtained because of the Barclay brothers’concerns that Mr McKillen would “not be able to pay for the legal action that he had brought and we were interested in where Mr McKillen is based”.

Last night, Mr McKillen's Los Angeles-based lawyer, John Hueston, told The Irish Times he hoped that sworn depositions could be taken within a month. "We anticipate that there will be opposition from the defence and that an attempt will be made to try to dismiss the case. We think that that will fail," he said. The claim is a civil one, he said, but the district attorney's office can initiate a criminal prosecution and he will pass on information to prosecutors, he added.

In a lengthy claim lodged with the court, Mr Hueston alleges that a subsidiary of the private investigation company, Kroll, accessed Mr McKillen's "confidential and private information".

'Permissible purpose'
However, he claimed that agents for the Barclays had told Kroll Factual Data that the request for the information was for "a permissible purpose" under the credit reporting act.

In November 2011, the Barclays’ legal team told the McKillen side that it had the Irishman’s US social security number, even pointing out that he received it in New York in 2004.

“This information was included in order to demonstrate the extent of the defendants’ reach, influence, and access and to intimidate the plaintiff,” the legal claim contends.

They had done so, it goes on, “to gain a litigation and business advantage over the plaintiff by, at least, identifying his personal debts, his creditors, his investment interests, the location of properties he owns, and his creditworthiness.

“The defendants had no right to this private and confidential information, and the defendants sought to use this information and did use this information to attempt to exert pressure on the plaintiff in the UK litigation,” it said.

A judgment in an appeal to the Court of Appeal in London by Mr McKillen against last year's High Court defeat over the ownership of the three hotels is expected shortly.

Mr McKillen, the US court was told, alleges that the Barclays “engaged in unfair and improper litigation tactics”.

Last night, a spokesman for the Barclay brothers said they had no comment to make for now: “This is the first we’ve heard of this legal claim. We’ll look into it once we’ve received it, but until then we can’t comment in any detail.”