High Court hears application to wind up Irish Asphalt Ltd

An application to wind up Irish Asphalt Ltd has opened before the High Court.

James Elliot Construction (JEC) has brought the petition seeking the appointment of a liquidator to the firm, which is part of the Lagan Group of companies over an alleged unpaid debt of more than €2.4m.

The application is opposed by Irish Asphalt Ltd , directors of the firm and related entity Lagan Holdings Ltd which is IAL's largest creditor.

They claim JEC has an ulterior motive in seeking to have the company liquidated namely that it will give it an tactical advantage in separate 'deceit' proceedings JEC has brought against the company, its directors Kevin and Terry Lagan and John Gallagher` and another related entity Lagan Cement Group Ltd.

The debt at the centre of the winding up petition relates to a High Court judgment it obtained against the company in 2011.

That case arose out of the supply by IAL to JEC a stone infill with excessive amounts of pyrite used in the Ballymun Central Youth Facility building in Dublin and which subsequently had to undergo major repair work.

That ruling was appealed to the Supreme Court, which in turn referred issues of law arising out of the action to the European Courts of Justice (ECJ).

Ultimately the appeal was dismissed by the Supreme Court and the ECJ's findings did not benefit Irish Asphalt's position.

Moving the winding up petition Patrick Leonard SC for JEC said it was "just and equitable" that the company, which it was accepted is insolvent, be wound up.

Counsel said his client wants an official liquidator appointed to investigate the company's affairs going back over a decade when litigation concerning pyrites first emerged.

At an overall level, the net assets of IAL decreased from a high of €43m in 2009 to a net liability position of €9.9m in 2015, he said.

Counsel said JEC had discovered that Irish Asphalt has in 2010 paid out a dividend of over €3.7m. In 2012 it had transfer its business plus its employees to a related firm Lagan McAdam Ltd, counsel said.

These and other matters could all be investigated by the liquidator, counsel said.

Counsel said that in reply the company rejects claims that these moves and other measures merit any investigation.

The company, represented by John Gleeson SC, says the company and others in the group underwent re-organisation following the economic recession.

The company. the directors and Lagan Holdings Ltd, want JEC's application dismissed or in the alternative stayed until the deceit proceedings have been concluded.

They say the application is an attempt by gain an advantage it the deceit proceedings .

If a liquidator is appointed those parties claim the company is unlikely to defend the other proceedings, which could result in them suffering reputational damage, they claim.

In that action JEC is seeking damages, plus an indemnity in other proceedings taken against it over pyrite, from the defendants.

JEC alleges it was supplied with products by the defendants which they knew contained pyrites.

Those claims are denied. That case is due to commence in November and the hearing is expected to last for 20 weeks.

JEC rejects claims it has ulterior motives in seeking to wind up Irish Asphalt.

The case which opened before Mr Justice Tony O'Connor yesterday (tues)and is expected to last for several days.

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