Solicitor used clients' €2.5m to gamble on stock market
THE High Court has frozen the accounts of a highly respected law firm after hearing that one of the partners in the family-run solicitor's outfit had used almost €2.5m of clients' money to gamble on stocks and shares.
The court heard that Ruairi O Ceallaigh, a partner and solicitor in the firm Sean O Ceallaigh & Co -- who has admitted the wrongdoing -- gambled the money, half of which had been left to the Catholic Church.
The total liabilities of the firm may be in excess of €4m.
Ruairi O Ceallaigh, the son of retired solicitor Sean O Ceallaigh (79), who founded the firm more than 50 years ago, was involved in the double mortgaging of four properties in which his brother and fellow partner in the firm, Cormac O Ceallaigh (37), had given undertakings to AIB.
Yesterday, Mr Justice Peter Charleton, following an application by the Law Society, suspended the practising certificate and froze the bank accounts of Ruairi O Ceallaigh (39), of The Old Bank, Phibsborough, Dublin 7, a partner in the firm.
However, the judge also dismissed the Law Society's application to make similar orders against Cormac.
He said there was no evidence before the court to suggest that Cormac was anything other than an innocent party in what had occurred. Cormac, the judge held, had acted as "a responsible solicitor".
Patrick Leonard BL, for the Law Society, said that last week the society had been contacted by representatives of the firm and informed that there was a deficit in the client account.
€2.4m was missing, most of which was from the estate of a man who left money to the Archbishop of Dublin. The total liability may be over €4m.
In a sworn statement, Cormac said his entire family were "shocked" and "devastated".
He added that his brother Ruairi had "breached the ethos bred into us by our father".
The men's parents are prepared to put their family home for sale, mortgage or security as a means of filling the deficit.
Judge Charleton adjourned the matter for two weeks.