Saturday 25 May 2019

Irish developer stranded in US as court orders he surrender his passport

Developer Garrett Kelleher
Developer Garrett Kelleher

Dearbhail McDonald and Shane Phelan

Irish property developer Garrett Kelleher has been ordered by a judge in a US court to surrender his passport - and remain in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania - until he complies with discovery (disclosure) orders in a decades-long insurance claim dispute with its roots in a civil war in Liberia.

The businessman, best known for his backing of the stalled Chicago Spire project, is now effectively stranded in Philadelphia until the issue is resolved.

Last week, Judge Paul S Diamond ordered Mr Kelleher to surrender his passport to the Clerk of the US District Court of Eastern Pennsylvania and remain in the district pending completion of the discovery issue discussed during a court hearing held on August 13 last.

Mr Kelleher had filed an emergency motion seeking to lift the order confining him to Pennsylvania, as he had plans to travel to Chicago to prepare for separate proceedings involving the National Asset Management Agency (Nama).

Mr Kelleher argued that the court's order, confining him to Pennsylvania, prevented him from honouring obligations to another federal court and would incur unnecessary and additional litigation costs.

However, Judge Diamond denied Mr Kelleher's emergency motion, ruling that the Irishman had refused to comply with discovery orders to Cigna Worldwide, a defendant in an action taken by the Abi Jaoudi and Azar Trading Corporation, "for years".

Judge Diamond said that the Chicago proceedings cited related to a "routine motions" hearing and said that his "purported need to review warehouse documents in Chicago sounds very much like his purported need to review documents in Dublin" that he [the judge] had discredited the previous day. "His need to review documents in Chicago is no more credible," said Judge Diamond. "Accordingly, I will deny his motion".

Last night Mr Kelleher told Independent.ie that in July 2016, the US Court found him in civil contempt of court and that over two years later no written judgement had been issued.

He said: "Notwithstanding the obvious logistical problems created by the Court's order on Monday last preventing me from personally gathering documents that were located in my Dublin office or working with my attorneys in their New York City Office, I have already produced approximately 2,000 pages of documents dated between 2005 and 2017 corroborating my sworn testimony that I had no personal knowledge that my investment, that was exhausted by 2010 and helped fund an attempt by Liberian citizens to obtain international justice from an international insurance company in respect of claims arising from losses in Liberia, violated the Injunction of the Philadelphia Federal Court".

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