Wednesday 13 December 2017

Claims that couple failed to disclose nine paintings kept in UK

Brian O'Donnell
Brian O'Donnell
Shane Phelan

Shane Phelan

Property investor Brian O'Donnell failed to disclose his ownership of several paintings after going bust, a bankruptcy official has claimed.

An investigation by Official Assignee in Bankruptcy Christopher Lehane discovered the paintings were being kept at a farmhouse in Kent, England, where the former solicitor is now living, and at another address in London.

According to court documents, Mr O'Donnell finally declared the nine paintings in September 2015, just over two years after he and psychiatrist wife Dr Mary Patricia O'Donnell were adjudicated bankrupt.

In a letter, Mr O'Donnell denied he had "intentionally failed to disclose any assets".

However, in an affidavit filed with the High Court, Mr Lehane said he had been forced to get third-party information after the O'Donnells failed to give him a statement of affairs. He also said some art and jewellery was only handed over to him during 2016.

The disclosures were made in court filings made by Mr Lehane in support of his application to extend Mr O'Donnell and his wife's period of bankruptcy.

The couple had been due to be discharged from bankruptcy last year, but Mr Lehane applied to have their bankruptcy period extended by five years.

Filings made to the court reveal details of a major row between the official assignee and Mr O'Donnell over alleged non-disclosure of assets.

Dispute

In court papers, seen by the Irish Independent, Mr O'Donnell made a series of allegations about the official assignee's handling of the case, all of which were denied by Mr Lehane.

Much of the dispute centred around the fact the O'Donnells first sought to file for bankruptcy in the UK in March 2012, which they argued was their centre of main interest.

This was opposed by Bank of Ireland, which had secured a judgment for €71.5m against them the previous year.

Ultimately the English High Court dismissed the O'Donnells' application. They were then adjudicated bankrupt in Dublin in December 2013 following a petition from Bank of Ireland.

In affidavits, Mr O'Donnell said statements of affairs prepared as part of the UK bankruptcy application were given to the official assignee "for information" in 2013 and early 2014.

But these were not found to be acceptable by Mr Lehane, who sought fresh statements. The O'Donnells protested that they did not have access to the necessary information.

Mr Lehane said in an affidavit that the O'Donnells failed to co-operate for two-and-a-half years before finally producing a statement of affairs which was accepted. Mr Lehane said the situation hampered the administration of the bankruptcy estate. "In the absence of a statement of affairs it was impossible to know where the personal goods of the bankrupt were or even the extent and value of such goods," he said.

The official assignee said this was "a matter of significant concern" in circumstances where antiques and art works owned by Mr O'Donnell had been valued by Deloitte at €7.5m in 2005.

Irish Independent

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