Ruling later this month in O'Donnells' €75m BoI case
SOLICITOR Brian O'Donnell, his wife and two adult sons want a court to halt a bank's action against them over an alleged conspiracy to put property assets in London beyond its reach.
Bank of Ireland (BoI) initiated the action last July as part of its efforts to recover judgment of some €75m granted against Mr and Mrs O'Donnell in December 2011 arising from unpaid loans provided for property investments.
The couple and their sons, Blake and Bruce, yesterday applied to Mr Justice Peter Charleton to stay the proceedings pending the outcome of other proceedings in the UK concerning ownership of a property, Westferry Circus in London.
The O'Donnells deny the bank's claim that Mr and Mrs O'Donnell own that property. They also deny that a trust set up in relation to the property is "a sham".
The bank this year secured a charge from the UK courts over a company, Hibernia 2005, which effectively owns the property, but the O'Donnells dispute its entitlement to that.
Ross Maguire, for Bruce and Blake O'Donnell, of Gorse Hill, Killiney, Dublin, sought an order setting aside service of the bank's proceedings on them and staying the action. He argued that the UK courts have jurisdiction in the matter.
He said his clients denied the bank's allegations. They also contended that the two properties at issue -- at Columbus Courtyard, Canary Wharf, and Westferry Circus -- were either "worth nothing to them" or the senior loans charged on the assets were such as to render them "not very valuable".
Mr and Mrs O'Donnell had previously put the combined value of the two properties at some £200m (€246m).
Ronan Lavery, for Brian and Mary Patricia O'Donnell, also urged that the bank's case be stayed. It was highly likely, he said, that the couple would be made bankrupt in the UK or in this jurisdiction in a very short period of time and they hoped that bankruptcy would occur in England. They had also provided all outstanding documents required by the bank.
They were "not getting off lightly" and all the debts would be collected, counsel added. The bankruptcy was a chance "to draw a line" under the matter and to get on with their lives.
Opposing the application, Cian Ferriter, for the bank, said it would be claiming that there was a fraud aimed at frustrating the judgment granted against the couple. The bank should be allowed proceed with an action validly commenced in this jurisdiction, he argued.
The hearing concluded and the judge said he would rule on the matter later this month.