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Wednesday 24 September 2014

I never signed over my brother’s €1.3m insurance policy, says Bernard Rocca

Tim Healy

Published 13/02/2013 | 18:58

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 Bernard Rocca
 Bernard Rocca

BUSINESSMAN Bernard Rocca has told the High Court that he never signed over to any other party his interest in a €1.27m life insurance policy taken out on the life of his late brother, developer Patrick Rocca Jnr.

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Mr Rocca told Mr Justice Paul Gilligan that signatures on documentation purporting to assign his interest in the policy to a company controlled by Patrick was not his.

On the second day of a legal dispute with Danske bank, as to who is entitled to the proceeds of a €1.27m life insurance policy, Bernard Rocca rejected suggestions that he did not have a close relationship with his brother as being untrue.

In his action, Mr Rocca claims he is the beneficiary of a policy with Hibernia Aviva Life on Patrick's life. Property developer Patrick Rocca died tragically in January 2009.

Danske Bank, trading as National Irish Bank, claims it is entitled to the proceeds of the policy in order to pay off monies owed to it arising out a €3.85m loan it advanced to Patrick and his wife Annette in 2006.

The bank says €1.5m remains outstanding on that loan. It claims that in 2004 Bernard Rocca assigned the policy to a company called Brentwood Properties Ltd, which was controlled by Patrick Rocca.

The shares of that company were beneficially owned by Patrick Rocca and another firm Accorp Properties Ltd. The shares of Accorp are owned by the estate of the late Patrick Rocca and his wife Annette.

The bank claims that Brentwood assigned the benefit of the life policy at the centre of the dispute to Patrick Rocca. This, and other policies, were assigned to the bank as security for the €3.85m mortgage loan advanced to Patrick and Annette Rocca.

Bernard Rocca disputes the bank's claim.

He is seeking a declaration that the bank has no lawful title to the proceeds of the policy, which he further claims should be paid to him.

Yesterday under cross examination from Declan McGrath SC for the bank Bernard Rocca said that "at no time" did he ever say that his brother had forged his signature on documentation.

Bernard said that did not approve the use of an assertion in a document, tendered on his (Bernard's) behalf, replying to the bank's defence of the proceedings stating that Patrick Rocca was capable of financial deceit and forgery of signatures.

Such an assertion was never his opinion, Mr Rocca told counsel.

When Mr McGrath put it to the witness that Annette Rocca would say in her evidence that the brother were not close, Bernard Rocca said that he "begged to differ," and such a suggestion was "totally untrue".

He said he took his brother's death "very heavily", but accepted that he had not attended events including anniversary masses for Patrick.

He said that he had done his own thing in respect of remembering his brother.

He said that while there were certain disagreements between brothers his brother had confided with him in the time before his death. He said he was  was the "first person Annette rang," and was one of the first people on the scene following his brother's death on January 19th 2009.

He had also attended and gave evidence at his brother's inquest. In reply to counsel's suggestion that there was family pressure for him to be Patrick's best man, Bernard said his brother wanted him as his best man, however Annette had objected.

In response to his own counsel Ross Maguire SC, Bernard Rocca said the life insurance policy was one of a number of such policies taken out as part of a complex scheme by members of the Rocca family during the 1990's when the firms were being restructured.

He said that the polices remained in place after the Rocca Tiles business was sold in 2000-1, and the premia continued to be paid by companies controlled by Patrick Rocca.

Following his brother's inquest, Danske Bank made a claim to the proceeds of the policy. He said that he found this confusing. He said he could find no record of him assigning the policy to another party, but would look into it. He said he "felt bullied" by the bank's demands.

The case will resume next week.

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