Wednesday 25 April 2018

Law firm shut after solicitor gambled away €2m

Tim Healy

A COURT yesterday ordered the winding up of a once respected family law firm after one of its partners allegedly used almost €2.5m of client cash to gamble on stocks and shares.

High Court President Mr Justice Nicholas Kearns also directed that the papers in the case involving the firm of Sean O Ceallaigh & Co, Phibsboro, Dublin, be referred to the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP).

Last month, the court suspended the practising certificate of one of the partners in the firm, Ruairi O Ceallaigh, after it heard he had admitted gambling the €2.5m, half of which had been left to the Catholic Archbishop of Dublin in a man's will.

At the time, the court heard that the total liabilities of the firm could be in excess of €4.2m; yesterday it was told it is now potentially €5.85m.

Ruairi O Ceallaigh, son of retired solicitor Sean O Ceallaigh (79), who founded the firm more than 50 years ago, was allegedly involved in the double mortgaging of four properties in which his brother and fellow partner in the firm, Cormac O Ceallaigh (37), had allegedly given undertakings to a bank.

After the High Court froze the firm's assets last month, accountant David Rowe of the firm Outsource was asked to assess the viability of proposals to ensure the practice, under the supervision of Cormac O Ceallaigh, could continue to operate.

Yesterday, Mr Justice Kearns said he had no choice but to grant the Law Society an order to wind up the firm in the light of "very serious fraud".

In his report, Mr Rowe said the original proposals to keep the practice open would not generate sufficient income.

These proposals included that the Archbishop of Dublin would be given the deeds of number 29 Grand Canal Street, Dublin, to sell to help pay what was owed to him.

They also included that, subject to the firm's being allowed to continue to trade under the sole stewardship of Cormac, his father Sean and mother Pauline would sell the family home at Ros na Ri, Castleknock, Dublin.

The court heard that Mr Rowe received revised proposals, but they were in parts weaker than the original proposals. Under the new proposals, the firm wanted to use €36,000 per annum rental income from double-mortgaged properties to help meet the debt.


Estimated annual profits of €70,000 from the continued operation of the practice would also provide for the repayment of €1.4m over a 20-year period.

Mr Justice Kearns, who said there was no suggestion Sean O Ceallaigh acted in anything but an honourable manner, ordered the firm be wound up and that Ruairi remain suspended pending disciplinary action by the Law Society.

He agreed with the society that Cormac could be allowed to practise with another firm, though he may face disciplinary proceedings for alleged lack of supervision of his firm.

Irish Independent

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