Wednesday 21 November 2018

Case of solicitor's luxury homes is getting 'curiouser and curiouser'

Tim Healy

A HIGH Court judge has described as "curiouser and curiouser" a number of developments in proceedings about ownership of the contents of the luxury family home of solicitor Brian O'Donnell and another luxury property in London.

Mr Justice Peter Kelly also said yesterday he was becoming suspicious that "games" may be being played in the case and stressed he would not tolerate any abuse of the court's process.

The judge granted orders permitting solicitor Paul Kerrigan to cease representing Brian O'Donnell, his wife Mary Patricia and three companies linked to Mr O'Donnell.

In letters to the court, Mr Kerrigan said there had been an irretrievable breakdown of trust with those clients and instructions he had received in recent days contradicted instructions previously given to him.

He had been put in an invidious position and was no longer willing to act.

Another solicitor, Vincent Sheils, of Athenry, Co Galway, told the judge he was seeking to represent the couple and the companies.

The developments came in Commercial Court proceedings in which the bank, as part of its effort to enforce a €75m judgment against the couple, contends the O'Donnell's family home at Gorse Hill, Killiney, Co Dublin, and another luxury property at Barton Street, London, are owned by the couple and not by trusts as the couple allege.

The bank's case is against the couple, their four adult children (as alleged beneficiaries of the trusts) and the three companies.

The proceedings were before Mr Justice Kelly yesterday.

Paul Gardiner, for the bank, sought a declaratory order against the companies over their failure to file a defence. Counsel also complained the children had not filed a defence despite having been given additional time to do so.

The bank was trying to work through "a web of companies, asserted trusts and solicitors coming and going", he said.

Ross Maguire, for the children, said they wanted particulars of the bank's claims the trusts were a sham before they filed their defence.

The "bigger picture" in this case was that Mr and Mrs O'Donnell appeared to have been borrowing money from Bank of Ireland on an almost unsecured basis, counsel said.

At the heart of those statements were claims by Mr O'Donnell he owned Gorse Hill when that was not true and the children's property was being affected by their parents with the knowledge of the bank, he added.

Having heard from the parties, the judge said, as the author Lewis Carroll would say, the behaviour of the defendants was getting "curiouser and curiouser".

He was coming to the conclusion attempts were being made to play games with the court , he said.

He directed that, unless the companies file a defence to the proceedings by 4pm tomorrow, he would grant the bank a declaratory order against the companies -- Vico Ltd, Chancery Trustees Ltd and Vico Barton Ltd -- that the Gorse Hill and Barton Street properties are owned by Brian and Mary Patricia O'Donnell.

The judge also gave the children until 4pm tomorrow to enter their defences in the case.

Irish Independent

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