Sunday 18 February 2018

Bank appoints receiver to company that owns luxury home of solicitor Brian O’Donnell

Tim Healy

BANK of Ireland has appointed a receiver over the company that owns the luxury family home of solicitor Brian O'Donnell in trust for his four adult children, the Commercial Court heard today.

The bank regards that trust as non-existent or "a sham", Paul Gardiner SC, for the bank, said.

The receiver - Tom Kavanagh - was appointed to Vico Ltd morning, counsel said. The bank believed "someone like Mr O'Donnell may well dissipate assets", was "not to be trusted" and expected to take further proceedings against the O'Donnells, he added.

The bank, which is seeking to enforce a €75m judgment against Mr O'Donnell and his wife over loans related mainly to property investments, believes the trust related to the family home at Gorse Hill, Vico Road, Killiney, Dublin, was a part of "manoeuvres" to frustrate the judgment, counsel said.

The bank did not believe what it had heard from Mr O'Donnell during his court examination over his assets, counsel said. Mr O'Donnell had told "untruths" about his son Blake having emailed English solicitors in April last regarding crucial trust documents.

Blake, himself a solicitor, had since said in an affidavit he had not emailed the English solicitors and Blake had been sitting in court while his father was being examined, counsel added. The two had constructed "a web of untruth" about the existence of a critical email.

Mr Justice Peter Kelly granted the bank's application to fast-track to the Commercial Court proceedings over ownership of the contents of Gorse Hill and of London House, Barton Street, London, where Mr O'Donnell and his wife are living and which they allege is owned by Vico Barton Ltd.

Lawyers for the couple and the children opposed the case being fast-tracked but the judge rejected all their arguments, including that the children were not commercial people. Blake O'Donnell was a solicitor, his father was a retired solicitor and this was not a situation of "an innocent abroad".

He dismissed what he described as "troubling" submissions by Ross Maguire SC, for the children, that solicitors for the bank improperly used Commercial Court email procedures provided for the purpose of communicating developments in cases to the court.

Mr Maguire said this had caused the children to be suspicious related to the conduct of the proceedings.

The judge said the solicitors were not guilty of any such impropriety and the procedures referred to had been used by solicitors and the court without complaint since the commercial list came into being in 2004.

He rejected additional arguments by Mr Maguire the Gorse Hill contents were mainly domestic electrical items such as fridges and freezers and said most of the property in an inventory was furniture and antiques.

There was no basis for claims the children were "dragged" into the case by the bank and such language should not have been used, he said.

This case was brought because of Mr O'Donnell's own testimony. He rejected arguments on behalf of Mr and Mrs O'Donnell that the bank had delayed in bringing the contents proceedings.

The judge also remarked there was "a sound basis" for the bank's belief that at least part of Mr O'Donnell's evidence to the court concerning his assets was "incredible".

The judge will deal tomorrow with the bank's application for orders restraining the couple and their children dissipating the contents which the family say are valued about €150,000 in total.

Undertakings not to dissipate assets apply in the interim.

Earlier valuations of €5m and €7.5m placed on collections of art and antiques of the couple in statements of net worth provided on his behalf to the bank were mistaken, Mr O'Donnell previously said.

In separate proceedings, his children have appealed to the Supreme Court against an order of Mr Justcie Kelly permitting solicitors for the bank enter Gorse Hill for the purpose of taking an inventory of its contents.

The proceedings over ownership of the contents of the two properties arose from the bank's examination of Mr O'Donnell about his assets as part of its efforts to enforce judgment obtained last December.

Arising from Mr O'Donnell's evidence, the bank said it had concerns related to the ownership and value of the contents of Gorse Hill and London House and it initiated proceedings on April 30th last against all of the O'Donnells and three companies aimed at securing those contents.

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