Bank claims Brian O'Donnell bankruptcy bid is 'a sham'
BANK of Ireland has denied a series of accusations made against it by solicitor Brian O'Donnell and his wife and has called their bid to declare bankruptcy in Britain a "sham".
A senior executive from the bank launched a rigid defence of how it dealt with the high-profile couple after allegations that the bank had forced them from Ireland.
The O'Donnells are trying to have bankruptcy declared in Britain while Bank of Ireland, to which they owe €71m, wants them bankrupted in Ireland.
In the latest day of the High Court action in London, Des Hanrahan, the head of the bank's specialist property group, said it had always dealt with the O'Donnells in a "fair and equitable fashion" and was "measured and reasonable" at all times.
In a sharp attack last week – one of many from the couple against the bank – Mr O'Donnell had said Mr Hanrahan was "consumed with animosity". Yesterday, the bank executive said this was "totally untrue".
"I have no animosity towards Mr O'Donnell," he said.
The O'Donnells say their centre of main interest (COMI) is in London and they should be allowed to declare bankruptcy there, a bid the bank is contesting.
Under Irish law, it can take up to 12 years to emerge from bankruptcy, whereas in the UK it can take as little as 12 months. The O'Donnells say most of their business dealings have been in the UK since 2005.
Mr Hanrahan told the court that the pair's personal borrowing had been done in Ireland and deals had been conducted through Dublin. In an interview with Marian Finucane on RTE radio last December, Mr O'Donnell said their residence was in Dublin.
In a statement to the court, Mr Hanrahan described the pair as "bankruptcy tourists" as their COMI was firmly in Dublin and most of their business was done there. It was a "sham", he said, that people lived in Ireland and conducted their affairs there and then got on a ferry and declared their COMI in Britain.
The O'Donnells moved permanently to London last December after taking the ferry to the UK.
He also questioned how the couple were paying £4,000 (€5,000) a month in rent on their eight-bedroom house in Westminster, which is worth £12m (€15m), to their own investment company, describing the arrangement as "most peculiar".
Earlier in the day, Mary Patricia O'Donnell, Brian O'Donnell's wife, said that estimates of an art collection in their house in Killiney, which is now in trust for their four children, for some €5m were a "complete error" and said the art was worth between €100,000 and €150,000.
Ms O'Donnell denied that valuable items had been moved out and put in storage.
She claimed the couple would have moved to London full time previously but for the fact that their youngest daughter had had a very serious illness.
The trial continues later this week.