Businessman told to remain in prison

The High Court has ruled that a Co Offaly businessman must remain in prison over the weekend before he can make an application to purge his contempt for failing to comply with orders to hand over possession of machinery he had leased.

The High Court has today ruled that a Co Offaly businessman must remain in prison over the weekend before he can make an application to purge his contempt for failing to comply with orders to hand over possession of machinery he had leased.

Last August, Donal Rigney was committed to prison by Ms Justice Mary Laffoy who ordered that he be imprisoned until he purged his contempt after rejecting his claims that the machinery was no longer in his control.

Mr Rigney a father-of-four from Gortacur, Mount Bolus, Tullamore, Co Offaly was jailed due to his failure to return to finance providers Lombard Ireland 17 pieces of machinery, including dumper trucks, cranes and excavators, located in Dubai.

The equipment is estimated to have been worth between €1.9 and €2m.

However, gardaí were unable to execute that order because the businessman, who operates a plant hire operation, had left the country. The court heard he went initially to the North and then on to Dubai.

He returned to Ireland late last month, and on September 22 last surrendered himself to the Gardaí in Tullamore Co Offaly.

He has been in Mountjoy Prison since then and yesterday applied to the High Court to purge his contempt.

Today, when the matter returned before the High Court Mr Justice Paul Butler, who ruled that the application to purge Mr Rigney's contempt should be heard by Ms Justice Mary Laffoy next Monday, refused an application to vary the committal order and allow the businessman out of Mountjoy until then.

Senan Allen SC for Lombard said that his clients were opposed to Mr Rigney being released. This was because he had absconded, and that they wanted time to consider a unsworn affidavit on Mr Rigney's behalf which purports to contain details of how Mr Rigney has purged his contempt.

Nuala Butler SC for Mr Rigney said that he went to Dubai to arrange for the machines to be returned and now wished to purge his contempt.

Counsel applied to the court for a variation of the committal order, allowing Mr Rigney out of prison in order to contact people in Dubai and finally settle matters.

This was something that could not be done from a prison cell, said counsel, who added that Lombard's objection to Mr Rigney being released was vindictive.

However the Judge said that Mr Rigney should remain in prison until Monday when the issue can be dealt with by Ms Justice Laffoy. In refusing to allow Mr Rigney out of prison, the Judge said the businessman left the jurisdiction and had frustrated the court order made against him.

It was, the Judge added, very important that such orders be respected.

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