Saturday 18 November 2017

Former investment firm boss seeks unfreezing of accounts

Aodhan O'Faolain

THE former chief executive of a failed investment firm wants the High Court to overturn orders freezing bank accounts containing €180,000.

Custom House Capital's former CEO Harry Cassidy has brought the action arising out of orders freezing two accounts with the Bank Of Ireland, obtained by the Gardai in July 2012.

The two accounts are held by a private pension trust, which has two independent trustees and was established in 2000 to administer Mr Cassidy's pension. Mr Cassidy is the sole beneficiary of the amounts held in the account.

He wishes to challenge the making of the orders, which it is claimed were made in judges chambers and not in open court.

However he claims he is being denied full disclosure by the Gardai of the information he requires to challenge the making of the freezing orders which he claims amounts to a breach of his rights.

Custom House Capital was wound up in 2011 after a High Court-appointed investigation by two Central Bank inspectors into the firm found the “systemic and deliberate misuse” of €66 million of client money through false accounting to hide the transfer of the money to cover shortfalls in European property investments.

The inquiry found “improper transactions” concerning €56 million in client funds and a further €10.4 million was owing to clients on an investment bond.

Today at the High Court, Hugh Hartnett SC for Mr Cassidy, of Ballintyre Walk, Ballinteer Dublin said the Gardai had obtained 28 day freezing orders against bank accounts linked to Mr Cassidy under the 2010 Criminal Justice (Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing) Act.

The orders have been renewed on several occasions since July

The orders allow Gardai carry out preliminary investigations into certain financial transactions.

Counsel said Mr Cassidy did not receive any notification of the initial freezing orders or the first three renewals and Mr Cassidy's lawyers have been unable to determine why the accounts have been frozen.

Counsel said that Mr Cassidy could not challenge the freezing orders unless he was provided with all the relevant information. An application was made before Judge Cormac Dunne for full disclosure of all the sworn information.

That application was opposed by the Gardai on grounds including that full disclosure would not assist the Garda investigation.

Judge Dunne refused to order the unredacted disclosure of the sworn information.

The Judge said that he lacked the jurisdiction to adjudicate on the application for full disclosure and could only adjudicate on a revocation application.

Counsel said that Mr Cassidy could not make a revocation application without the unredacted information. Counsel said that to date the respondents have acted in breach of the rules of natural and constitutional justice and have denied him the right to an effective remedy.

In his action against the Garda Commissioner, Judge Dunne, Ireland and the Attorney General Mr Cassidy is seeking orders from the court quashing all the freezing orders made in respect of the two bank accounts.

He is also seeking an order restraining the Gardai from seeking any further freezing orders without providing Mr Cassidy with all the relevant information.

He is further seeking declarations including one that sections of the 2010 Act are invalid and incompatible with Irish Constitution and the European Convention on Human Rights, and that the freezing orders are null, void and without legal effect.

Leave to bring the action was granted, on an ex-parte (one-side only) basis, by Mr Justice Michael Peart.

The Judge made the matter returnable to a date in March.

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