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Bank wants to 'humiliate' bedridden business tycoon O'Reilly, court hears

A BANK seeking to recover debts from bedridden businessman Tony O'Reilly wants to "humiliate and embarrass" him by requiring he swear a further statement as to his assets and liabilities, the Commercial Court heard.

Bernard Dunleavy SC, for Mr O'Reilly, said it was "a disreputable application" and should be rejected.

However, Mr Justice Brian McGovern said he would require the 79-year-old, who recently underwent back surgery in New York, to swear a new affidavit by September 9 after the judge said there was nothing to stop him instructing lawyers and accountants to prepare the information.

The case arises out of AIB's efforts to recover monies owed to it by Mr O'Reilly following a €22.6m judgment entered against him last June in favour of the bank.  His total indebtedness to AIB now stands at around €15m.


Tony O'Reilly. Photo by Conor Horgan.

Tony O'Reilly. Photo by Conor Horgan.

Mr Dunleavy said his client was confined to bed in New York, on round-the-clock painkillers and two medical reports presented to court had not been challenged by AIB.

The bank asked the court to order him to swear an affidavit within three weeks but Mr Justice McGovern said he would give him three months.

The judge said in setting the September date, he unreservedly accepted Mr O'Reilly was incapacitated and could not travel to this jurisdiction for sometime following his back surgery.

However, he did not think this prevented him from dealing with the bank's application for details of his assets and liabilities.  This was in circumstances where he has also instructed professionals in the Bahamas, where he has a home, to bring proceedings in relation to an application in the courts there for a personal insolvency arrangement to deal with his debts.

The Bahamian courts were today due to hear an application on behalf of Mr O'Reilly for a stay on the appointment of a receiver over his assets, Mr Justice McGovern was told.

James Doherty, for AIB, said there was nothing to stop the Irish court making an order that he swear such an affidavit despite the Bahamian proceedings.  

This was a normal part of any judgment process and, while it was accepted he could not travel for the next couple of months, there was nothing to stop him instructing accountants and lawyers to answer questions in relation to any asset transfers in the last five years.

The bank was simply seeking clarification of information provided so far but there had been "an extraordinary and remarkable reluctance" by him to swear  up as to his assets and liabilities, counsel said.

Mr Doherty said among the questions that needed to be answered was about Mr O'Reilly's artworks which were stated to be valued at around €7.6million last year but now said to be worth around €1.5m and are secured in favour of another creditor.

It was simply a question of Mr O'Reilly "playing the game with the cards facing up on the table", he said.

Mr Doherty rejected Mr Dunleavy's claims that this was an attempt to humiliate him as it was merely an attempt "to get to the bottom of a complex serious of transactions in various jurisdictions where there is only one person who can say what the position is".

Earlier, Mr Dunleavy said it was notable that nowhere had it been suggested by AIB that the statement of affairs already provided by Mr O'Reilly was not complete or not genuine. 

This entire application arose out of the bank finding out he had shares in Dromoland Castle, but it only found out on the basis on information he provided in that statement of affairs, counsel said.

"How is a 79-year-old bedridden man on 24-hour analgesics supposed to get all this information in the next three weeks", counsel asked. 

The appropriate order for the court to make was to adjourn the AIB application for a month see if his medical condition improves, counsel said.

Mr Justice McGovern said that as well as giving him until September 7 to swear the affidavit, he would vary the order sought by the bank to state that details of transactions in the last five years be limited to asset transfers in excess of €100,000 rather than €10,000 as had been sought by the bank.  

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