Wednesday 21 March 2018

Builder who used hotel cash to fund his 'lavish lifestyle' must pay €1.57m

Padraig O'Halloran: outside the High Court
Padraig O'Halloran: outside the High Court

Tim Healy

A DEVELOPER must pay €1.57m damages over misappropriating large sums from $50m (€37.7m) paid to his companies for a luxury Caribbean hotel and resort which was left unfinished, the High Court has ruled.

The court heard that Padraig (Paudie) O'Halloran diverted $1.48m (€1.1m) paid to two companies in his Ice Group for the Buccament Bay resort to his personal bank accounts in Ireland.

And further payments of about €150,000 were made from his companies to Weddings by Franc for his wedding in Adare Manor, Limerick. This ultimately did not take place, Mr Justice Brian McGovern found.

It was alleged that between 2008 and June 2010, Mr O'Halloran misappropriated for his own personal benefit more than $13.5m of some $50m paid to the Ice Group companies for the resort and lived a "very lavish" lifestyle at their expense. It was claimed $2.25m was diverted to Ireland. Mr O'Halloran denied the claims.

The case is part of a multi-jurisdictional fraud claim arising from the Buccament Bay project. It arose after the two Ice Group companies agreed in 2008 to complete the Buccament Bay resort – after another company was dismissed following issues of alleged misappropriation of funds.

The funds had been paid to the Ice Group by two Caribbean companies – Harlequin Property SVG Ltd and Harlequin Hotels and Resorts Ltd, owned by David Ames of Essex, England.

The judge noted "persuasive" evidence Mr O'Halloran was diverting other substantial sums paid by Harlequin for other matters unconnected with Buccament Bay. These included buying a private jet, a racetrack in St Lucia, expensive gifts including a $65,000 diamond ring for his girlfriend, a quarry and renting an expensive mansion in Barbados. Those matters were offered as evidence corroborating the misappropriation of funds, the judge said.

Further payments totalling $258,000 were also made from Mr O'Halloran's companies to the Irish bank accounts of his father, Donal O'Halloran.

This was ostensibly to repay loans which Mr O'Halloran claimed were made to him by his father some years earlier, the judge said. The court was satisfied Donal O'Halloran was not knowingly a party to any misappropriation of the plaintiffs' funds, the judge found.

The judge found Mr O'Halloran, with addresses at Shippool, Innishannon, Cork, and Sandy Lane, Barbados, had knowingly "or at the very least recklessly" reassured Harlequin that phase one of the five-star resort would be open on July 1, 2010, when Mr O'Halloran knew from November 2009 it would not.

Irish Independent

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