Business Irish

Saturday 23 August 2014

Solicitor is given bail after raid on 'boiler house'

Tim Healy

Published 15/07/2014 | 02:30

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High Court president, Mr Justice Nicholas Kearns

A DUBLIN solicitor under investigation by the Law Society was arrested in London three months ago in a raid on an alleged "boiler house" operation which asked victims to invest in a "worthless" gold mine, the High Court heard.

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Last November, Brian J Looney of Mespil House, Sussex Road, Dublin, told the court he would provide books and accounting records to the society following a client complaint.

Few records were provided but Mr Looney then said he had been diagnosed with bi-polar condition and was working towards putting order on his practice, Law Society investigating accountant Rory O'Neill said in an affidavit.

The society's own psychiatrist found he was not suffering from a bi-polar affective condition but had symptoms consistent with the onset of an "adjustment disorder" which pre-dated the issues for which he was under investigation, Mr O'Neill said. He had no solicitor's practising certificate for 2011 and 2012, he added.

Mr Looney previously made a declaration that he did not hold any client money and would tell the society if he received money which would be handled by another solicitor.

Without a practising certificate, he was not entitled to carry out any of the functions of a solicitor including holding clients' money.

Last April, Mr O'Neill learned Mr Looney had received €100,000 from the settlement of cases on behalf of clients. Mr O'Neill also concluded he (O'Neill) had been misled as to the existence of a client bank account and that both his personal and client accounts had not been operated in accordance with solicitors' regulations.

Mr O'Neill also concluded there was potential liability in relation to four clients totalling nearly €88,000.

Last April, Mr Looney, through his legal advisors, told the Law Society's regulation and practice committee that progress was being made in terms of providing explanations and paying money back to clients.

Arrested

However, on April 24, City of London police informed the society they had arrested Mr Looney during a raid on an office in the city in which a group of salesmen were cold calling people stating they were aware of an opportunity to buy rights in a Californian gold mine worth US$36m.

Prospective investors were told the find would be the biggest in US history but a Fraud Squad detective believed it to be "worthless Californian gold".

The office was shut down and Mr Looney was released on bail. Robert Beatty, a barrister for Mr Looney, said he client wanted time to put in a responding affidavit to the society's claims. He also needed more than the seven days the society was giving him to provide it with accountants reports for the years 2011 to 2013, counsel said.

Judge Nicholas Kearns said would give eight weeks to 
provide the accountants' reports.

Irish Independent

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