Sunday 18 August 2019

Retired solicitor Brian O'Donnell accuses bank-appointed receiver of 'code of silence' over millions from his bankrupt estate

Brian O'Donnell
Brian O'Donnell

Tim Healy

RETIRED solicitor Brian O'Donnell claims there has been a code of silence by a bank-appointed receiver over what has happened to millions of Euros from his now bankrupt estate.

Mr O'Donnell, who also represents his wife Dr Mary Patricia in proceedings over their bankruptcy, says there has been "an omerta where we have been unable to get information from (receiver) Tom Kavanagh for five years".

Mr Kavanagh was appointed receiver over the O'Donnell assets by Bank of Ireland which in 2011 obtained a €71.5m judgment against the couple for mainly property related debts.

Mr O'Donnell, in his latest High Court application, is seeking orders that Mr Kavanagh provide him and his wife with sufficient information to enable them to comply with their legal obligations to provide a statement of affairs to the court-appointed official overseeing their bankruptcy, the official assignee Chris Lehane.

The official assignee, the receiver and Bank of Ireland, denied Mr O'Donnell's claims and said the bankruptcy process is not proceeding as it should because of the obstructive approach of the O'Donnells.  They say all assets and liabilities will be accounted for as part of the bankruptcy process.

Ms Justice Caroline Costello said she will give a decision on the matter later.  

The judge also refused an application by Mr O'Donnell that she not hear the matter further because of a perception of objective bias arising from a previous judgment by her related to the bankruptcy.

It brought to four the number of High Court judges the O'Donnells have asked to recuse themselves from hearing cases involving them and their debt.

Mr O'Donnell, in his application seeking information from the receiver, said Mr Kavanagh is, as part of the bankruptcy, effectively their agent in all matters relating to the estate including entering into contracts over property.

However, not only will he not provide them (O'Donnells) with the information,  Mr Kavanagh is not providing the official assignee Mr Lehane with it, despite a number of requests, he said.

The information included what has happened to three properties in Merrion Square, Dublin, worth some €28m, which were apparently sold for €2m, he said.

Another property in France, over which there were borrowings of €3.5m, had been sold for €5.5m.  No information was forthcoming about that or about agents fees, he said.

He had not received a single one page document stating such a property had been sold by Mr Kavanagh to another person but instead got a "broad global document" from a solicitor for the receiver.

"We are then being told we are being desperately unreasonable and blocked at every turn when we ask for information".

There appeared to be discrepancies in the figures which had been provided with Mr Kavanagh stating on one occasion the money raised had gone towards his fees and then other information from Mr Lehane saying some of the money had gone to the bank, he said.

At the same time, last month, the couple received a letter from Bank of Ireland Private Banking, with which the O'Donnells had their accounts, saying they owe around €500,000, he said.

He also rejected a suggestion from counsel for Mr Lehane that they simply put in a statement of affairs and come back to court.  "We don't want to come back any more - we are in court all the tim and we want to get it sorted and settled", he said.

Other people in this situation got the information they sought, he said.  "We are entitled to get it because everybody else gets it but we don't".

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