Financier ordered to prison for contempt 'fled State'
Published 26/08/2010 | 05:00
A BUSINESSMAN and father of four who was ordered to be sent to prison for contempt of court has left the country.
Yesterday the High Court heard that gardai believe Donal Rigney, from Gortacur, Mount Bolus, Tullamore, Co Offaly, has left Ireland despite a High Court order that he be jailed over his failure to hand over machinery used on construction projects in the Middle East.
High Court judge Ms Justice Maureen Clark was told that gardai were unable to execute a warrant committing Mr Rigney to Mountjoy Prison for failing to comply with orders to hand over possession of almost €2m worth of machinery, including dumper trucks, cranes and excavators that are located in Dubai.
The committal order was made last Monday by Ms Justice Mary Laffoy, who ruled that Mr Rigney be sent to and remain in prison until he purged his contempt and complied with the order. The judge rejected Mr Rigney's claims that the machinery was no longer in his control.
However, Lombard Ireland, who brought a motion to have Mr Rigney committed to prison over his failure to return the machinery it had leased to the businessman and his company, told the judge yesterday that from their investigations Mr Rigney remained a free man, as gardai were unable to enforce the warrant, and that he had left the jurisdiction.
The court heard from a legal representative of Mr Rigney's, who said that they had been in contact with their client and that he had waited to be brought to Mountjoy by the gardai.
The failure to imprison Mr Rigney emerged yesterday as another firm, National Irish Asset Finance (NIAF), applied to the court for orders seeking the return of its machinery.
NIAF entered into 25 agreements with Mr Rigney for the lease and hire-purchase of construction machinery.
Padraic Lyons, counsel for NIAF -- which terminated the agreements last March -- said the company was seeking the return of machinery. There could be "no dispute" that the machinery was the property of NIAF, said Mr Lyons.
NIAF, which is owed an estimated €500,000 by Mr Rigney, said it had been informed, for the first time, of the whereabouts of some of the machinery.
The court heard that six items of machinery had been scrapped, 14 were in Tullamore, up to 10 were in Dubai and two had been sold. Mr Lyons said that on two previous occasions an agent of NIAF had been unable to collect any of its machinery in Tullamore.
The judge, who adjourned the matter to Friday's sitting of the High Court, said that she wanted to know why the warrant committing Rigney to prison had not been executed.
The judge said that her colleague would not have made the committal order if she did not expect it to be executed.
She said that on Friday she required an affidavit from the gardai as to why the order had not been executed, and also would require an affidavit from Mr Rigney in defence of the claim against him by NIAF.