The iconic Clerys department store was purchased following a number of secret meetings as part of a plan called ‘Project Clock’, the High Court has heard.
The claim was made by one of the inspectors conducting an investigation into the collective redundancy of the store’s 460 workers in June 2015, hours after the group of companies that owned and operated Clerys was sold to a joint venture called Natrium by its previous owners, the US Gordon Brothers group.
Natrium is a joint venture made up of Cheyne Capital Management in the UK, and a company of Deirdre Foley, the owner of property firm D2 Private Ltd.
The inspectors, appointed by the Workplace Relations Commission, are opposing a challenge brought by D2 and Ms Foley against the WRC concerning the powers of the inspectors, who seized documents and a computer from D2’s offices in May.
In a sworn statement to the High Court, one of the inspectors, James Kelly, said events, including secret meetings, had taken place as part of a plan called Project Clock, concerning a takeover of the department store on June 12, 2015.
He said the decision to wind up the company was not taken on June 12, as has been claimed. He said while Ms Foley and D2 say the transaction concerning Clerys was bona fide and above reproach, he said they had concealed information that seriously called into question the position being adopted.
It was also alleged the High Court was misled when an application to wind up the company that operated Clerys came before the High Court hours after the takeover had been completed. Representations made to the court on that date were utterly false, said Mr Kelly, adding that “a makeshift set of affairs” was presented to the court.
Ms Foley, in a sworn statement in reply to the allegations, rejects “in the strongest possible terms” the inspector’s claims, which she described as “far-fetched” and “irresponsible”.
The claims against her and other persons and entities associated with the purchase of Clerys have “no credible basis for such assertions”, and were just “hearsay”.
She said the decision to liquidate the company, which was insolvent, was not taken by her, D2 , Natrium, which was never the employers of the workers. It was taken independently by directors of OCS Operations Ltd, which had operated the stores and employed the workers.
Her counsel, Eoin McCullough, said the claims were prejudicial to his client and irrelevant.
Other parties, including an employee of D2, Mark Redmond, the directors of OCS operations who took the decision to liquidate the company, Brendan Cooney and James Brydie, and Eamonn Richardson, of KPMG, who was appointed liquidator of OCS Operations, also strongly rejected allegations of impropriety made against them by the inspectors.
The inspector’s claims were made on the second day of judicial review proceedings brought by Ms Foley and D2 Private against the WRC concerning the powers of the inspectors, who seized documents and a computer from D2’s offices in May.
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