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Monday 22 September 2014

Man denies role in ex-wife's late change to will

Brian Horne

Published 08/03/2014 | 02:30

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Deirdre Romanes
Deirdre Romanes

A businessman denied influencing his millionaire ex-wife to change her will while she was on her death-bed.

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Monaco-based Iain Romanes (66) insisted that his former wife did not make a "spontaneous" decision to change her will.

Just days before losing a long battle against cancer, newspaper proprietor Deirdre Romanes (60) signed documents making £3m (€3.6m) available to the debt-ridden Dunfermline Press through a trust fund.

Younger sister Elizabeth Smyth (61) claims the change robbed her of almost half of what she would have got from an earlier will.

She also claims the last-minute change benefited Mr Romanes, who held a substantial stake in the newspaper publishing company.

The Court of Session in Edinburgh has heard how Mr Romanes returned to Edinburgh for the last two weeks of his former wife's life in May 2010.

His wife was the wealthy proprietor of the Celtic Media Group, which included several Irish newspapers including the 'Meath Chronicle'. He had left her nine years earlier for another woman, but spent time with Mrs Romanes in her home in Heriot Row, in the heart of Edinburgh's New Town, although other close family members were kept at arm's length.

Mr Romanes was questioned in court yesterday by Mrs Smyth, of Kells, Co Meath, who is conducting her own case.

Mother-of-four Mrs Smyth is asking judge Lord Glennie to rule that when her sister signed papers changing her 2008 will she "lacked capacity" and was easily influenced.

Mr Romanes said he could not recollect being at a meeting which discussed childless Mrs Romanes' legacy in May 2010 – even though a note by one of her executors indicated he was at the meeting in the Heriot Row drawing room.

The former husband also said that the changes in Mrs Romanes' legacies were the "culmination" of a long process.

"This had been going on for months. I don't know when Deirdre had begun discussions about changing the will, but it certainly wasn't something spontaneous after I arrived."

Papers had already been drawn up by the time he got there, he added.

"I got the feeling that a new will had been drafted months before I arrived."

Mr Romanes indicated that, living in Monaco, he did not feel he should invest his own money in Dunfermline Press.

FUND

His ex-wife's investment, through an offshore trust fund, would have resulted in tax advantages if the company had been sold.

Mrs Smyth asked why her late sister had changed her mind so dramatically.

"I don't think this was dramatic," said Mr Romanes. "It wasn't spontaneous. It was planned by Deirdre for several months beforehand. I don't see why you use the word 'dramatic'."

The court has also heard that the planned investment was not successful.

No money was paid into Dunfermline Press and the company went into receivership.

The hearing is expected to continue next month.

Irish Independent

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