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Tuesday 23 September 2014

Limerick based solicitor has €70m in NAMA debt judgements

Lawyer-developer was subject of two-thirds of claims issued against profession last year

Published 20/01/2013 | 05:00

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A SOLICITOR with massive Nama debts is responsible for more than two-thirds of the judgements that were registered against those in the legal profession last year.

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Paul O'Brien, who is based in Limerick, topped a list compiled by credit agency Stubbs Gazette that showed the solicitor had a total of €70m in judgements registered against him by the State's asset recovery agency.

The Stubbs Gazette report showed judgements registered against solicitors jumped 635 per cent in 12 months, with €91m registered last year compared with €12m in 2011.

A partner in the McMahon O'Brien Tynan law firm, Mr O'Brien was one of 62 solicitors who had their names registered in the pages of the credit agency's monthly magazines last year.

The 49-year-old's debt accounts for six of the top 10 judgements. He is joined on the list by Denis McMahon, his fellow partner in the legal practice, who owes Nama €14m.

It was reported last March that Nama had appointed receivers to a number of shopping centre projects in several counties in which Mr O'Brien had interests.

These include Newtown Shopping Centre in Annacotty and units at the Racefield Shopping Centre, both on the outskirts of Limerick; the Showgrounds Shopping Centre in Clonmel, Co Tipperary; units at Doughiska Shopping Centre in Galway; and Brasscock Shopping Centre in Waterford.

By the end of March, Nama had launched summary proceedings against Mr O'Brien and Mr McMahon in an effort to pursue personal guarantees the pair had given on loans they had drawn down for their commercial construction projects.

In early August, Nama obtained three judgements totaling almost €59m against Mr O'Brien and a €14m judgement against Mr McMahon. A further €11m judgement was registered against Mr O'Brien in November last year.

In a separate High Court case that the partners took against Limerick solicitor John Tobin and his business partners, Patrick O'Meara and Anthony Fitzpatrick, it was revealed that Mr O'Brien owed Nama in excess of €287m.

In Mr Justice Frank Clarke's judgement in March last year it was mentioned that Mr O'Brien had assets worth €87m, leaving him in negative equity to the tune of €200m.

Mr Tobin also featured in the Stubbs list, with €184,000 debt owed to the Collector General.

Sixth on the list is Dublin solicitor Angela Farrell who was landed with a €6m judgement by Ulster Bank last February following a complicated legal wrangle.

The judgement lodged against Ms Farrell stems from a loan she acquired for a site in Balrothery, north Dublin, where she and Vernotico Developments boss Patrick Collins were hoping to develop "sustainable agricultural farms".

Mr Collins has come in for criticism from residents in an unfinished housing estate in Borris-in-Ossory, Co Laois, that his company built in the dying days of the property bubble.

It was also reported that Ms Farrell was involved in selling the Laois properties from her Dublin office in North Great George's Street.

The embattled solicitor lived in a Georgian property in the street until she was forced to vacate it in the past year following another legal battle, with Bank of Ireland.

The courts heard last year that the former director of the National Youth Orchestra had borrowed €4.3m to buy the North Great George's Street property and a number of development sites in Duleek, Co Meath, in 2007.

The bank said Ms Farrell had stopped making payments in 2008 and they were forced to take action the following year.

The solicitor did not give up her home without a protracted fight that involved more than 30 court appearances and a Supreme Court action.

When that failed, the determined property developer took a criminal action against Bank of Ireland employees claiming they had defrauded her, but this case was blocked by the courts.

Registry of deeds records show that AIB also obtained an "affidavit of judgement" against her former home last year.

It is believed that Ms Farrell has felt aggrieved over her treatment in the courts and has sent representations to Justice Minister Alan Shatter.

In an online blog post titled "Abuse of Court Process", she suggested that "successful asset seizures arise on the court's not permitting a full hearing".

She added: "This is achieved through not allowing a defendant to raise a defence to the bank's case."

Ms Farrell has also had run-ins with the Law Society, with the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal finding against her twice last year.

She is due before two hearings later this month.

Sunday Independent

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