Tuesday 23 January 2018

Law firm to close in €2m client fraud

A respected family law firm has been ordered to be wound up by the High Court after one of its partners used almost €2.5m of clients' money to gamble on stocks and shares.

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

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

The court heard then the total liabilities of the firm may be in excess of €4.2m -- and yesterday was told that was now potentially €5.85m. Ruairi O Ceallaigh, the 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, could continue to operate.

Mr Justice Kearns said yesterday he had no choice but to grant the Law Society an order winding up the firm in the light of "very serious fraud" in this case and after receiving the accountant's viability report.

In that report, Mr Rowe said the original proposals submitted to keep the practice open were overly optimistic and would not generate income that would repay the firm's liabilities.

These included that the Archbishop would be given the deeds of a property in Grand Canal Street, Dublin, to sell to help pay off what was owed to him.

The judge ordered the firm be wound up, its files be transferred to the Law Society and that Ruairi remain suspended pending further disciplinary action by the Law Society.

The judge also agreed that Cormac could be allowed to continue practising with another firm, though he still faces disciplinary action.


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