A Cork developer has been ordered to pay €1.57m damages over fraudulent misrepresentation, deceit and misappropriating large sums out of $50m (€37.7m) paid to his companies for a luxury hotel and resort in the Caribbean which was left unfinished.
Padraig (Paudie) O’Halloran, aged 42, of Shippool, Innishannon, Co Cork, diverted $1.48m paid to two companies in his Ice Group for the Buccament Bay resort to his personal bank accounts in Ireland, while further payments of about €150,000 were made from his companies to Weddings by Franc for his wedding in Adare Manor, Limerick, which ultimately did not take place, Mr Justice Brian McGovern found.
Further payments totalling $258,000 were also made from Mr O’Halloran’s companies to the Irish bank accounts of his father, Donal O’Halloran, ostensibly to repay loans which he claimed were made to him by his father some years earlier, the judge said.
While Donal O’Halloran, from Ballinaspig, Co Cork, may have loaned money to his son some years ago, the evidence in that regard was unsatisfactory, the judge said. The payment of those sums had no apparent benefit to either the Caribbean project or the Ice Group and the loans appeared to have been given by Donal O’Halloran to help out his son, the judge added.
In his evidence, Donal O’Halloran presented as an elderly man in frail health who seemed somewhat confused and the court was satisfied he was not knowingly a party to any misappropriation of the funds, he found.
In assessing damages against Padraig O’Halloran only, Mr Justice McGovern said he had regard to all payments which were misappropriation of funds paid by two Caribbean companies — Harlequin Property SVG Ltd and Harlequin Hotels and Resorts Ltd, owned by David Ames of Essex, England — to the Ice Group companies as a result of fraudulent misrepresentation and deceit by Padraig O’Halloran.
There was also, he noted, “persuasive” evidence Mr O’Halloran, who also has an address at Sandy Lane, Barbados, was diverting other substantial sums paid by Harlequin for other matters unconnected with Buccament Bay, including to buy a private jet, a racetrack in St Lucia, expensive gifts, including a $65,000 diamond ring for his girlfriend, a quarry, and renting a mansion in Barbados.
While those matters were not part of the case taken by Harlequin in the High Court against Mr O’Halloran and his father, they were offered as evidence corroborating the misappropriation of funds, the judge said.
The Irish case is part of a multi-jurisdictional fraud claim arising from the Buccament Bay project and arose after the two Ice Group companies agreed with Harlequin in 2008 to complete the Buccament Bay resort after another firm was dismissed following issues including alleged misappropriation of funds.
Harlequin alleged, between 2008 and Jun 2010, Mr O’Halloran misappropriated for his own benefit over $13.5m of some $50m paid to the Ice Group firms for the resort, and lived a “very lavish” lifestyle at their expense. It was claimed $2.25m was diverted to Ireland. Mr O’Halloran denied the claims.
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