Ex-lovers in dispute over alleged movement of horses worth up to €4.5m
Corut granted temporary injunctions preventing animals being sold or moved out of Ireland
On Thursday, Ms Justice Leonie Reynolds granted temporary injunctions preventing the horses being sold or moved out of Ireland. Photograph: iStock
A Mexican businessman and his company have brought a High Court action against parties, including his former lover, over allegedly moving two valuable horses to Ireland without his permission.
The horses, said to be worth up to €4.5m, are a grey stallion called ‘Milton’, pre-selected to represent Belgium in the 2021 Olympic Games, and a gelding named ‘Diego’, expected to compete in the next European Championships.
On Thursday, Ms Justice Leonie Reynolds granted temporary injunctions preventing the horses being sold or moved out of Ireland.
The action is by Italian-based Mexican businessman and horse rider, Jose Alfredo Hernandez Ortega, and his Panama registered company Leeston Enterprises SA, which owns the horses.
The proceedings are against Mr Ortega’s former partner, Martina Romagnoli, whom the court heard owns and operates a stud in Haras de Ligny in Belgium and also keeps horses in Co Waterford.
The action is against several other defendants, including XCE Heritage Ltd; Heritage of Tomorrow Ltd; Of Heritage Stud Ltd; REI of Heritage Ltd; Future of Heritage Ltd with registered addresses in Bunmahon, Co Waterford, all of which Ms Romagnoli is the sole director.
It is alleged Ms Romagnoli, an Italian national, uses the companies to operate a business called Bunmahon Sporthouse Stud and Insemination Centre.
The proceedings are also against Richard Fitzgerald and his company, Ballinasisla Stud Ltd. It is alleged Mr Fitzgerald is also secretary of Ms Romagnoli’s Irish registered companies.
Seeking the orders, Bernard Dunleavy SC, instructed by solicitor Michael Kavanagh of LK Shields, said the combined worth of the two horses is estimated to be €4m to €4.5m.
Counsel said Mr Ortega had left several horses temporarily at Ms Romagnoli’s stud in Belgium where he had been staying following a serious accident so as to be near their son.
He said she asked him to leave, because, given their personal history, being in proximity to each other proved stressful.
He said the horses remained at the stud and he paid for their upkeep and made arrangements for somebody else to train them.
He claims, in recent weeks, the horses were removed from the Belgian stud by Ms Romagnoli.
Two were moved to Ireland, while attempts were made to sell two others in Belgium without Mr Ortega’s consent, it is claimed.
The whereabouts of three other horses which he claims he owns and were at the stud remains unknown, the court heard.
He is not certain where in Ireland the horses are but Ms Romognoli and Mr Fitzgerald had been offering Milton’s semen to inseminate mares for sale at the stud in Co Waterford, the court was told.
This was also without Mr Ortega’s consent, counsel said.
Counsel said the two horses allegedly sent to Ireland with a view to putting them beyond Mr Ortega’s reach were due to be ridden in international competitions by showjumper Jerome Guery.
If Mr Guery, the number 35 ranked rider in the world, cannot train on Milton, he will not be able to participate in the Tokyo Olympics, counsel said.
Ms Romagnoli has asserted an interest in the horses, but no proof of ownership has been provided to his client’s lawyers, he added.
As a result it was decided to seek orders from the Irish courts.
Interim injunctions were granted, on an ex-parte basis, by Ms Justice Reynolds preventing the horses being moved or sold and requiring the defendants to detain and preserve any sample of semen, and the proceeds of any such samples, taken from Milton.
The defendants must also tell the applicants where the horses, or any samples of semen taken from Milton, are located.
The defendants are also restrained from inseminating any other horse with Milton’s semen.
Counsel said, at a later stage of the proceedings, his client will seek orders including directing the two horses be handed over to him.
The judge said, based on the evidence before the court, an arguable case was made out for the temporary injunctions.
The matter will return before the court next week.