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Tuesday 28 February 2017

O'Brien shares sold to refund investors

Maeve Sheehan

Maeve Sheehan

Breifne O'Brien and wife Fiona Nagle were regulars on charity ball circuit
Breifne O'Brien and wife Fiona Nagle were regulars on charity ball circuit

STOCKS and shares owned by the alleged society fraudster Breifne O'Brien have raised €200,000 for duped investors as his labyrinthine finances are dismantled by the courts.

The shares in AIB, Merrion Pharmaceuticals, CRH, and Independent News and Media were sold in recent weeks by the county sheriff on the orders of the High Court, raising more than €200,000 -- a fraction of what they were once worth.

Attempts to sell the taxi company run by O'Brien and his wife, Fiona Nagle, since the collapse of his elaborate pyramid investment scam have been less successful, however. It is understood that offers in the lower scale of a five-figure sum have been made for Blackrock Cabs.

The High Court signed the business over to the sheriff's office last month so that it could be sold and the proceeds used to repay two brothers who are owed €3m by O'Brien. However, the business is believed to be in debt.

The Garda Fraud Squad has recovered volumes of bank records, invoices and financial statements from O'Brien. He has not been formally interviewed, however garda sources say the investigation has progressed significantly.

Eleven people, many of them friends and family, claim they are owed €18m by O'Brien, saying he duped them into investing in bogus deals and then used the money to prop up his own businesses and to finance his personal lifestyle. The prospects of recouping the money they are owed appears increasingly unlikely.

While Anglo Irish Bank is also preparing to sell off a string of properties owned or part-owned by O'Brien, the proceeds will revert to the bank. The properties, which are said to be worth €11m, include apartments in Paris and Reading, England, a car showroom in Munich, a house in Monkstown and O'Brien's share in an investment fund in Boston.

The proceeds will go to Anglo Irish Bank, which claims it is owned €13m after lending O'Brien the money to buy the properties.

Among the beneficiaries of the fire sale of O'Brien's stocks and shares are Louis and Robert Dowley, farmers from Tipperary who claim O'Brien owes them €3m.

Following an application from the brothers, the High Court ordered the sheriff to recover whatever valuables he could from O'Brien's imposing home, Invergarry, on Silchester Road, south Dublin.

The takings included O'Brien's Aston Martin car, bought for €70,000 but sold for €37,000 by the sheriff. An art collection, worth an estimated €50,000, has not yet gone on sale as ownership is disputed.

The Dowleys, like others who were stung by O'Brien, were guests at his society wedding to Fiona Nagle, a high profile events manager. The O'Briens were regulars on the charity ball circuit, filled gossip columns and posed for magazine interviews.

O'Brien's scam collapsed in December 2008 as the credit crunch took hold. He admitted to investors that their money was gone. Judge Peter Kelly said the investors were the victims of an apparent "confidence trick".

Sunday Independent

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