herald

Saturday 1 November 2014

We're out of here - socialites quit Dublin and their €75m debt

FORMER billionaire couple Brian and Mary Pat O'Donnell have quit Dublin.

The high-flying pair once lived a luxurious life in Killiney but now property investor Brian O'Donnell says Ireland "holds nothing" for him.

He told a London court that he has even purchased a grave in the UK.

Home for the O'Donnells, who now live in London, was once a palatial pad in Gorse Hill, Killiney which boasted its own tennis court and outdoor pool.

The couple, who have four children, built up a €1bn property portfolio here and abroad during the golden years of the Celtic Tiger.

"I have no intention of going back to Dublin and nobody can compel me to live in a place I don't want to live," Brian O'Donnell said.

BATTLE

They were once wined and dined by Ireland's banking and legal elite but are now in a €75m court battle with Bank of Ireland. Mr O'Donnell now intends to pen a book about his experiences in business.

The former Dublin-based solicitor had a voracious appetite for property -- snapping up landmark buildings in Washington, Stockholm, France, London as well as family homes in Galway and Dublin for millions of euro.

He and his wife, an the eminent psychiatrist, have now decamped to London to lay claim to the UK's more benign bankruptcy regime, Bank of Ireland claims. Under Irish law, bankruptcy can take up to 12 years to be discharged -- while in the UK it takes a year. The bank is suing the couple for €75m in debts.

During his London High Court battle, the former Dublin-based solicitor dismissed the prospect of ever returning to his home. "We have decided that our residence and our futures and our lives are going to be in London, so much so that we have bought a grave here in London," he said.

"The experience in Ireland is very bad. The economy is in a terrible state."

Mr O'Donnell denied that a "series of moves" -- including the purchase of a grave and a recent application for a national insurance number -- were put in place in order to "protect his assets".

He said: "As I have said previously, my affairs are complicated."

Mr O'Donnell was quizzed on the alleged transfer of ownership of three properties worth an estimated €360m to his four adult children Blake, Bruce, Blaise and Alexandra.

Gabriel Moss, for the Bank of Ireland, questioned why Mr O'Donnell had not paid tax in the UK before filing for bankruptcy there.

But Mr O'Donnell said he "did not think it was necessary".

The case rests on whether the O'Donnells can prove their centre of main interest is the UK. The couple have been resident in the UK for seven years, their barrister said.

Bank of Ireland's barrister rejected this, saying the bank "had been mucked about in an outrageous way".

hnews@herald.ie

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