Alleged pyramid scheme investor agrees to preserve assets above €20m


A MAN said to be involved in the taxi business who allegedly operated a “pyramid” investment scheme over some 15 years and misappropriated millions to fund his personal lifestyle and business interests has agreed to a court order not to reduce his assets below €20 million.

Breifne O’Brien, Invergarry, Silchester Road, Glenageary, Co Dublin, whose assets are alleged to include a house in Barbados, had within the last few days told Brian Quigley, a solicitor for several investors, that he (O’Brien) had been “living a lie” for up to 15 years in relation to investments made for others, including long-time friends.

Mr O’Brien had calculated his total liabilities to 11 people at €16- €19 million, Mr Justice Peter Kelly heard. Mr O’Brien also allegedly said he had appropriated some €4 million to fund his personal and family lifestyle, a further €4 million for payments of fictitious profits to other investors, a similar sum to keep his business interests afloat and a similar sum to fund the purchase of various properties. The investors had no knowledge of any of this, the court was told.

It was also claimed Mr O’Brien said his method of operation was to seek money from one investor and, having promised that person a return, when the time came to pay, if he could not convince the person to invest in another transaction, he would seek a different investor and use their money to pay off the first investment and its fictitious return.

Mr O’Brien allegedly said he repeated this process over a 10-15 year period. He said it was easy to “pull suckers in when the economy was booming” but recent events made it impossible to continue, Mr Quigley said in an affidavit.

Mr O’Brien had also admitted receiving investments for some €6 million in the past two months and to using €5 million of that sum to “repay” one investor and €600,000 another. No information was given about the remaining €400,000, Mr Quigley said. It was difficult to know what to make of Mr O’Brien’s statements or their accuracy, he added.

The judge yesterday granted a freezing order against Mr O’Brien, restraining him dealing with or reducing his accounts below €20 million. Gabriel Gavigan, for Mr O’Brien, agreed to an order in the terms sought. The order applies to January 12th next and Mr O’Brien must also provide a statement of his assets.

The order was sought by a number of people, including an 88-year-old pensioner, who claim they were encouraged by Mr O’Brien to invest large sums in various property investments and do not know where their money has gone.

It is claimed monies invested were later misappropriated in circumstances of “admitted grave dishonesty”.

The plaintiffs also expressed concern that Mr O’Brien will move to conceal or dissipate their or his own assets prior to enforcement of any judgment which may be made against him as a result of their proceedings against him.

The plaintiffs are David Bell (88), a pensioner from Kilgarth, Silver Birches, Dublin, and his son, Peter Bell, a solicitor, of the same address; Daniel Maher, a businessman, of Kilteragh Pines, Westminster Road, Foxrock; Louis Dowley, a farmer, Tybroughey, Carrick on Suir, Co Tipperary, and his brother and business partner, Robert Dowley, also a farmer, Three Bridges House, Carrick on Suir; David O’Reilly, a businessman from Fassaroe House, Fassaroe Avenue, Bray, Co Wicklow; and Evan Newell, Brighton Gardens, Rathgar, Dublin.