Wednesday 16 October 2019

Wife of car dealer pursued by taxman is banned from taking legal actions interfering in land sales

Lucy Pinfold, of Granard, Co. Longford, pictured leaving the Four Courts after a High Court action. Pic: Collins Courts
Lucy Pinfold, of Granard, Co. Longford, pictured leaving the Four Courts after a High Court action. Pic: Collins Courts
Shane Phelan

Shane Phelan

The wife of a car dealer being pursued for almost €5m by the taxman has been banned by the High Court from bringing proceedings aimed at frustrating the sale of her husband’s properties by a Revenue-appointed receiver.

The President of the High Court found Lucy Pinfold acted in bad faith when she sought to register a “lis pendens” against five properties in Co Longford and Co Cavan earlier this year.

Her husband John Alex Kane is currently facing the prospect of being sent to jail for contempt of court after being found to have breached a court order by interfering with farmland being sold by receiver Myles Kirby. A decision on his punishment is to be made later this month.

Mr Kane, of Cartron, Granard, Co Longford, denies claims by the receiver that he has orchestrated a campaign of interference and intimidation aimed at frustrating the land sales.

The receiver, who was appointed in January 2017, is seeking to sell the properties as part of an effort to recover a €4.97m judgment secured by the Revenue against Mr Kane in 2009 over non-payment of taxes related to car sales. 

Today, Mr Justice Peter Kelly heard Ms Pinfold issued proceedings against her husband earlier this year in which she asserted an interest in various properties being sold by Mr Kirby.

She also made an application to the court for the registration of lis pendens on five properties over which Mr Kirby has been appointed receiver.

Lis pendens are legal notices to the effect that there is a pending legal action in relation to a property.

The court heard the issue had delayed the sale of a 34-acre parcel of land at Willsbrook, Co Longford, which was close to completion, and prevented other properties from being offered for sale.

Gary McCarthy SC, for the receiver, told the court it was his client’s view the proceedings were not bona fide and were issued in an effort to obstruct and delay efforts to sell the properties.

In an affidavit, Mr Kirby said he believed there was no basis in law or in fact upon which Ms Pinfold could suggest she had a right or interest in any of the lands.

He said that other than the family home in Cartron, she had never previously asserted any right over or interest in the properties.

In his affidavit, Mr Kirby said he believed Ms Pinfold was probably assisted in drafting the proceedings by Michael Grimes, a Cork-based businessman convicted of tax offences last year.

In relation to this point, Mr McCarthy told the court there were a number of similarities between the proceedings filed by Ms Pinfold and previous proceedings drafted by Mr Grimes.

Court apology: Seamus Kane was jailed for one week. Photo: Damien Eagers
Court apology: Seamus Kane was jailed for one week. Photo: Damien Eagers

The barrister applied for three orders from the court. One vacating the lis pendens, one directing that Property Registration Authority cancel any lis pendens registered, and a third order restraining Ms Pinfold from taking further steps to interfere in the sale of the lands.

Ms Pinfold’s solicitor Michael Finucane said his client was consenting to the first two orders. However, he argued the third order sought was disproportionate and that the case for it had not been made out in evidence.

“Probable assistance and the belief of a receiver is not evidence. It is not even hearsay,” said Mr Finucane.

However, Mr Justice Kelly made the three orders.

In relation to the first two orders, he noted Mr Finucane accepted they should be made and that the solicitor had said he “had no desire to defend the indefensible”.

In relation to the third relief sought, the judge noted Ms Pinfold had not filed any affidavit responding to the liquidator. He said the affidavits of Mr Kirby and his solicitor, Michael Commons of Ivor Fitzpatrick & Co, “were not controverted”.

The judge said Ms Pinfold had brought the proceedings “in a mala fides fashion”.

He also awarded the costs of the application against Ms Pinfold.

Mr Finucane asked for a stay on the third order as he anticipated his client would be considering an appeal.

However, this was refused by Mr Justice Kelly. He said the solicitor could return to his court if he wished to produce evidence in a bid to vary or set aside the order.

Today’s hearing is the latest in a series before the High Court in recent months arising from efforts by the receiver to sell Mr Kane’s properties. 

Last month, Mr Kane’s brother Seamus was jailed for a week for contempt of court after breaching orders and undertakings not to interfere with the Willsbrook lands.

Seamus Kane was released from prison last week after apologising to the court and giving further undertakings.

Also last week, John Alex Kane was found to be in contempt after the court heard evidence he was seen by a security operative leaving the same property last March, in contravention of a court order. Mr Kane denied being there.

Mr Justice Kelly will decide later this month what punishment Mr Kane should face.

The judge is also considering a contempt of court application over the alleged failure by Mr Kane to file tax returns.

At the hearing last week, the judge said he thought Mr Kane had been “playing games” with the court for a long time. He warned Mr Kane “the game time is over”.

Mr Kane denies he is behind a campaign aimed at hindering the work of the receiver.

According to Mr Kirby, the campaign has involved threats being made to prospective buyers, a petrol bomb attack, break-ins, criminal damage, and the repeated placement of livestock on lands being sold.

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