O'Donnells hatched blatant fraud, court told
THE high-profile solicitor Brian O'Donnell, his wife and two adult sons put together a "blatant" scheme to put €255m worth of assets beyond a bank's reach, a court heard yesterday.
Bank of Ireland is claiming fraud against Mr O'Donnell and his wife Mary Patricia and their sons, Bruce and Blake.
Counsel for the bank, Cian Ferriter, secured leave from Mr Justice Peter Kelly yesterday to serve notice on the O'Donnells of the bank's application to the Commercial Court this Monday to have the action fast-tracked.
Mr Ferriter said the bank was alleging fraud against the four over "a blatant fraudulent scheme" carefully put in place in recent months despite the bank's efforts to execute a €75m judgment obtained against Brian and Mary Patricia O'Donnell.
The fraud proceedings mainly relate to Mr and Mrs O'Donnell's interest in two substantial properties in London -- Columbus Courtyard, Canary Wharf; and Westferry Circus -- and what the bank describes as "significant management income" being earned from Columbus Courtyard and another property, Chalet Hermine, in Courcheval, France.
The bank says the couple have valued the Columbus Courtyard property at some £124.5m (€159m) and the value of the properties involved exceeds more than £200m (€255m).
The bank contends Mr O'Donnell was not truthful when examined in court about certain alleged trusts, which the bank regarded as a sham.
From documents discovered last month, Mr Ferriter said the bank could see a series of steps that seemed to have the effect of moving assets through British Virgin Islands companies to their son Blake and involving companies whose directors were Blake and Bruce.
The effect of this was to put assets out of the estate of their parents, he said.
While the bank had received some "limited comfort" from letters for solicitors for Bruce and Blake indicating they would not take certain steps, the bank wanted those indications converted into undertakings to the court, Mr Ferriter said.
The matter was urgent because there was "clear evidence" of an assets dissipation scheme, he added.
Mr Justice Kelly granted short service of its proceedings on the four O'Donnells at addresses at the O'Donnells' family home -- Gorse Hill, Vico Road, Killiney, Co Dublin; Barton House, Barton Street, London; and at a firm of solicitors.
The bank is also seeking to determine the value and ownership of the contents of the O'Donnell family home at Gorse Hill and another luxury property at Barton Street, London, where the couple are currently living.
The contents were previously valued in statements of worth for the O'Donnells at between €5m and €7.5m but Mr O'Donnell has said those valuations were a mistake and "ludicrous".