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Father of four escapes jail by leaving country

A BUSINESSMAN who was committed to prison for contempt of court after failing to hand over possession of machinery has left the jurisdiction, the High Court has heard.

Yesterday at the High Court Ms Justice Maureen Clark was told that Gardai were unable to execute a warrant committing Donal Rigney to Mountjoy prison for failing to hand over possession of machinery used in the Middle East.

A solicitor representing Lombard Ireland, who brought a motion to have Mr Rigney committed to prison over his failure to return the machinery it had leased to the businessman and his company, told the judge that from their investigations Mr Rigney remained a free man, as Gardai were unable to enforce the warrant, and that he had left the jurisdiction.

The court heard from a legal representative of Mr Rigney, who said that they had been in contact with their client, and that he had waited to be brought to Mountjoy by the Gardai. Lombard brought proceedings arising out of his failure to return 17 pieces of machinery, including dumper trucks, cranes and excavators, located in Dubai. The equipment is estimated to have been worth between €1.9m and €2m.

The committal order was made last Monday by Ms Justice Mary Laffoy, who ruled that Mr Rigney a father of four from Gortacur, Mount Bolus, Tullamore, Co Offaly, remain in prison until he purged his contempt and complied with the order.



Terminated

The judge rejected Mr Rigney's claims that the machinery was no longer in his control.

Yesterday at the High Court National Irish Asset Finance, which also entered into a number of agreements with Mr Rigney for the lease and hire purchase of construction machinery, applied to the court for orders seeking the return of machinery.

Padraic Lyons said his client was seeking the return of machinery the subject of 25 agreements it had terminated with Mr Rigney last March. Counsel said there could be no dispute that the machinery was the property of his client.

However counsel said that yesterday it was informed, for the first time, of the location of the machinery. Some machines were in Dubai, others had been sold or scrapped, while a number were in Tullamore. Counsel said that an agent of National Irish had been unable to collect any of its machinery in Tullamore.

Ms Justice Clarke, who adjourned the matter to tomorrow, said that she wanted to know why the warrant had not been executed.

The judge said that her colleague would not have made the committal order if she did not expect it to be executed. The judge said that on Friday she required an affidavit from the Gardai was to why the order had not been executed, and also would require an affidavit from Mr Rigney in defence of the claim against him by National Irish.

hnews@herald.ie