herald

Wednesday 15 August 2018

Golden couple go bust owing €75m . . . or do they?

THEY were the golden couple who acquired all the trappings of the Celtic Tiger era - and now they've been declared bankrupt in the UK.

But it may not be all that simple for Brian and Mary O'Donnell - solicitor and doctor.

A High Court judge here has indicated he is not all that happy with their decision to get bankruptcy in London.

The banks too are not enamoured with the pair who are taking advantage of Britain's less onerous bankruptcy laws.

So another day in the Four Courts looms for the enigmatic and publicity shy O'Donnells (there's no known photo of Mrs O'Donnell).

Their bedroom, at 600 square feet, is the size of many city apartments. But unlike those apartments, Brian and Mary Patricia O'Donnell's bedroom has a balcony with clear views across Killiney Bay.

The opulent home also comes with an outdoor pool, a tennis court, a sauna, snooker room and pool room.

But Gorse Hill, on Vico Road, Killiney, is just one property in the vast portfolio in which the O'Donnells were understood to have a share.

They also had interests, a court was previously told , in a property on Pennsylvania Avenue, Washington DC (where you'll find the White House): one of Dublin's grandest city addresses, Merrion Square; several different properties in Canary Wharf, London; and various other properties in France and Sweden.



Now they're being asked asked to explain what a bank says are some "alarming discrepancies" between statements of affairs they previously made about their interests.

The couple -- he's a lawyer and she's a doctor -- and who owe €75m over property investments, were declared bankrupt in London this week.

The bankruptcy move came just as a bank sought to have them questioned in the Dublin High Court over discrepancies in statements about their assets.

The O'Donnells owe the €75m for loans and guarantees on loans obtained from Bank of Ireland (BoI) for investments and refinancing of other loans.

The bank is entitled to seek possession of their luxury family home at Gorse Hill, said to be worth between €6m and €7m, over failure to make repayments.

Judge Peter Kelly heard this week the couple had claimed in the bankruptcy proceedings in London their main centre of business interest was the UK.

They had agreed in March last year in the High Court that they would make payments totalling €28.5m by November. But they didn't.

When the payments were not made, the bank re-entered proceedings and in December, the judge granted the bank a summary judgment order against the couple, and against three companies owned or controlled by them, for around €71.5m which is now more than €75m.

Now the bank has been given permission to cross-examine the couple on April 17 about statements of affairs that they have made as part of its (bank's) efforts to identify assets which could be used to pay off their debt.

It came after the court heard from the bank that there were "alarming" discrepancies between a statement they made last March (2011) and one they made just last month.

Last year, they claimed part or full ownership of a significant international property portfolio in a statement of net worth, banker Des Hanrahansaid in an affidavit.

This included a property at Pennsylvania Avenue, Washington sold on March 18 last year for $155m.

They also claimed ownerships, ranging from 50 to 100pc, of buildings Courcheval in France; Merrion Square, Fitzwilliam Lane and Merchant's Arch in Dublin; and one in Stockholm, Sweden, which had been bought for €285m and which they said they owned 51pc of.







Refused

Mr Hanrahan said the first property to give rise to questions from the bank was the sale of the Sanctuary Building which took place on July 27 last but which the couple failed to engage over through an accountant nominated by the the bank.

Then the bank tried to find out about the $155m sale of the Pennsylvania Avenue property but was told by a firm of London solicitors representing the couple that the sale "realised a very large capital loss," Mr Hanrahan said.

The couple refused to answer questions asked of them about the benefits they received from that sale, he said.

Ordering the couple to come before the court, the judge said he was not impressed with the way theO'Donnells had deal with the matter.

hnews@herald.ie

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