Fraud-dispute couple's ponies worth €250,000 each in boom
THEIR Grade A ponies could fetch up to €250,000 at the height of the Celtic Tiger.
Now a couple whose lavish lifestyle and "string of expensive ponies" amazed a High Court judge, are at the centre of a company dispute that has sent ripples through Ireland's close- knit horsey set.
Earlier this week, the High Court ruled that Tyrone businessman Desmond (Dessie) Bell carried out a fraud on his estranged wife Martina Bell, when he transferred a loan of almost €1m from their company to another firm.
Martina Bell, the daughter of Ulster mega-developer Seamus McAleer, is a co-owner along with Mr Bell of Rollville Ltd, a company based in Navan, Co Meath.
Mr Bell was ordered to buy out his estranged wife's share of the business after he admitted forging her signature on documents in March 2006 to obtain a €965,904 loan from Bank of Scotland (Ireland).
The Bells were married in 1990 but became estranged in February 2006 having lived what High Court judge Mr Justice Daniel Herbert described as "an extraordinarily lavish lifestyle".
The judge said that the couple had bought expensive cars, jewellery, holidays and "a string of very expensive ponies for their children" when Mr Bell had misapplied some of the funds of Rollville.
Records from Show Jumping Ireland show that Mr Bell, whose son Shay and daughter, Marie Claire actively competed in gymkhanas throughout Ireland, is the owner of several Grade A ponies that routinely fetched some €200,000 at the height of the Celtic Tiger, with some ponies fetching as much as €250,000.
Last night, a spokesperson for Show Jumping Ireland said Grade A ponies could reach massive sums, but added that the economic downturn had driven down their price.
Mr Bell, the owner of Bell Contracts with offices in Cookstown and Dublin, was not available for comment when contacted by the Irish Independent.
Martina Bell will find out next month how much Mr Bell will have to pay her for her half-share in the business.
Mr Bell, who admitted forging his wife's signature on the loan documents, claimed she left the running of the business to him and he did it to keep his building work going and provide for his family.
The judge found Mr Bell had acted oppressively as a director of the firm they were co-owners of. Mrs Bell brought proceedings seeking orders under the Companies Act 1963 that the affairs of Rollville were being conducted in an oppressive manner in disregard of her interests and those of the company.