Court asked to set aside alleged asset transfers by man found liable for Omagh bombing

Michael Colm Murphy was ordered by Belfast court to pay damages to relatives

Aftermath of the Omagh bombing in 1998. Photograph: Frank Miller

Aftermath of the Omagh bombing in 1998. Photograph: Frank Miller

 

An application to set aside alleged asset transfers involving one of the men found liable in Northern Ireland high court civil proceedings for the Omagh bombing is to be fast-tracked in the Commercial Court.

The court was told on Tuesday the alleged asset transfers were made by Michael Colm Murphy, a discharged bankrupt, to his former wife Anne Murphy and sister in law Rita Hoey.

The Deputy Official Assignee Denis Ryan, the official in charge of Mr Murphy’s bankruptcy, claims the transfers are an attempt to frustrate his creditors, who include 12 relatives of victims of the 1998 bombing which claimed 29 lives and injured 300 others.

The Official Assignee, represented by Edward Farrelly SC, claims five asset transfers, including property, were made when civil and criminal proceedings were pending against Mr Murphy for his alleged role in the atrocity carried out by the Real IRA.

Mr Murphy was ultimately cleared of all criminal charges in connection with the bombing.

He had been convicted by the non-jury Special Criminal Court in 2002 on charges in connection with the bombing but that conviction was overturned on appeal.

In 2013, following a long legal battle, Mr Murphy, who was a successful businessman, was, along with three other men, found by Belfast High Court to be liable for the bombing.

That court ordered that Murphy, along with Michael McKevitt, Liam Campbell and Seamus Daly should pay Stg£1.6m damages to 12 relatives of victims who had brought the proceedings.

Arising out of their failure to pay, bankruptcy proceedings were taken here against Mr Murphy, Mr McKevitt and Mr Campbell. Last year, all three were adjudicated bankrupt.

It is claimed by Mr Ryan that asset transfers were made by Mr Murphy, when he was aware of claims being made against him by the victims, to ensure they would be unable to recover his assets.

The assets, including Mr Murphy’s family home, shares in companies that own a Dundalk pub, and 30 acres of land, were allegedly transferred on dates between April 1999 and October 2001.

It is also alleged Mr Murphy transferred IR£340,000 in cash to a trust for the benefit of his children.

Mr Ryan claims the trust, of which Ms Murphy and Ms Hoey are trustees, used some of the monies to buy a property at Church Street in Dundalk.

In proceedings against Ms Murphy, of Jordans Corner, Dulargy, Ravensdale, Dundalk, Co Louth, and Ms Hoey of Cloughinney Road, Forkhill, Newry Co Down, Mr Ryan seeks various orders and declarations, including that the official assignee is the beneficial owner of the assets in question, which are to be held in trust for the benefit of the bankruptcy estate.

On Tuesday, Mr Farrelly asked Mr Justice David Barniville to admit the case to the fast-track commercial court.

Lawyers for Ms Murphy opposed the fast-track application on grounds of alleged delay by the OA in bringing the proceedings, and that the value of the assets were below the €1m threshold for Commercial Court cases.

Ms Murphy would have difficulties in meeting the costs of Commercial Court proceedings, it was also argued.

Mr Justice Barniville said he was satisfied to admit the case to the list.

He did not accept the OA had delayed in bringing the action and found he had given a full explanation regarding the steps taken before commencing the proceedings. There was also a dispute over the value of the assets, he noted.

The action was adjourned to November.