Friday 22 November 2019

Bernard Rocca admits he 'may' have signed over interest in €1.27m policy

Bernard Rocca, arriving at court today
Bernard Rocca, arriving at court today

Aodhan O'Faolain

BUSINESSMAN Bernard Rocca accepts he may have signed a document handing over his interest in a €1.27m life insurance policy taken out on the life of his late brother, developer Patrick Rocca Jnr.

Under cross examination in the High Court today,  Mr Rocca said that even if he did sign a document at his late brother's home in July 2004, which purportedly assigned his interest in the policy to a company controlled by Patrick, he did so without knowing what he was signing.


He said he was never asked to assign his interest in the policy nor was the issue discussed with his late brother or any other party.


In proceedings before Mr Justice Paul Gilligan against Danske Bank, Mr Rocca claims he is the beneficiary of a Hibernia Aviva Life policy on his brother who died tragically in January 2009.


Danske Bank, trading as National Irish Bank, claims it is entitled to the proceeds to pay off monies some €1.5m still owed on a €3.85m mortgage loan advanced to Patrick and his wife Annette in 2006.


The bank claims Bernard Rocca in 2004 assigned the policy to Brentwood Properties Ltd, controlled by Patrick Rocca. It claims Brentwood's shares were beneficially owned by Patrick and Accorp Properties Ltd while Accorp's shares are owned by the estate of Patrick and his wife Annette.


The bank claims Brentwood assigned the benefit of the life policy to Patrick Rocca and that, plus other policies, were assigned to the bank as security for the €3.85m loan.


Bernard Rocca denies he assigned his benefit in the policy to any party and claims the bank has no lawful title to the policy proceeds.


Today, on the third day the resumed action,  Mr Rocca, under cross-examination by Declan McGrath SC, for the bank, accepted the possibility he may have signed an assignment in favour of his brother's firm in early July 2004.


He said that he went to his brothers home in July to sign a number of assignments of polices (from Patrick to Bernard) which Bernard intended to use as security a loan.


He told the court that he believed he signed three assignments, the originals of which were later forwarded to him. He said that he did not receive any documentation in relation to the policy at the centre of the dispute.


He accepted he was in a rush to get documents signed that evening as he was to go on holidays shortly afterwards.


He also agreed he may not have read all the documents very closely.

However he said that he and Patrick had only discussed signing documents in relation to the assignments from Patrick in favour of him (Bernard).


There was no discussion about the assignment of a fourth policy in favour of Patrick, he added.


He accepted that his signature appeared on a photocopy of a document purportedly assigning his interest in the policy to a company of Patrick. However, he said that he has never seen an original of this document.


He agreed with counsel that two handwriting experts had stated that the signature on this document strongly suggested that it was his signature on the photocopied assignment.


He also accepted that initially he believed the photocopy document was a forgery and has never seen an original copy of the purported assignment.


He told counsel that for a number of reasons he was suspicious of the document as the first time he saw it was in October 2009 after the bank asserted a benefit of the policy.


He accepted that there was a paper trail that the purported assignment back to July 2004. When asked by counsel if he still believed if the assignment was a forgery, he replied "I don't know."


At the time he said that he was being pressurised and bullied by legal and insurance people over the policy. He said that solicitor who acts for estate of his late brother had spoken to him about the matter, and told him to "get a good lawyer."


He also told the court that he "fallen out" with his family, including his sister in law Annette Rocca who he said asked him three days before his brother's inquest to change his statement, since issues surrounding the policy emerged.

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