Italian woman being sued by Mexican ex-lover claims she owns 50% of valuable horses

An Italian woman being sued by her former Mexican lover and his company over the movement of two valuable horses to Ireland claims she owns a 50% share of the animals.
Italian woman being sued by Mexican ex-lover claims she owns 50% of valuable horses
Last week the High Court granted businessman Jose Alfredo Hernandez Ortega and his company, Leeston Enterprises SA, which claims it owns the horses, a temporary injunction preventing the horses from being sold or moved out of Ireland. File and unrelated image of horses running on  a beach.
Last week the High Court granted businessman Jose Alfredo Hernandez Ortega and his company, Leeston Enterprises SA, which claims it owns the horses, a temporary injunction preventing the horses from being sold or moved out of Ireland. File and unrelated image of horses running on  a beach.

An Italian woman being sued by her former Mexican lover and his company over the movement of two valuable horses to Ireland claims she owns a 50% share of the animals.

The horses are a grey stallion, Milton, pre-selected to represent Belgium in next year's Olympic Games, and a gelding, Diego, expected to compete in the next European Championships and worth an estimated €4m-€4.5m.

Last week the High Court granted businessman Jose Alfredo Hernandez Ortega and his company, Leeston Enterprises SA, which claims it owns the horses, a temporary injunction preventing the horses from being sold or moved out of Ireland.

The proceedings are against Mr Ortega's former partner, Martina Romagnoli, and several Irish-registered companies of which she allegedly is the sole director.

It is alleged that Ms Romagnoli uses the companies to operate a business called Bunmahon Sporthouse Stud and Insemination Centre in Waterford.

The proceedings are also against Richard Fitzgerald and Ballinasisla Stud Ltd, a company which he owns and controls.

It is also alleged that Mr Fitzgerald is the secretary of Ms Romagnoli's Irish-registered companies.

The orders were granted after the Italian-based Mr Ortega claimed his former lover removed several of what he claims are his horses from a stud farm she owns in Belgium without his consent.

Diego and Milton, it was claimed, were taken to Ireland with a view to putting them beyond his reach.

The case returned before Ms Justice Leonie Reynolds today, who was told by Bernard Dunleavy, for Mr Ortega and his company, that it has been confirmed both horses are at a stud farm in Waterford.

Counsel said his side, which ultimately seeks an order directing the horses be returned to him, was also seeking to have receivers, who will look after the horses pending the final outcome of the action, appointed over the animals.

In reply, Ross Aylward, for the defendants, said Ms Romagnoli was taking the matter "extremely seriously" and wants the matter to be heard as soon as possible.

Counsel said it is her case that she owns 50% of each of the two horses.

While his client was prepared to leave the injunctions in place, she was opposed to what counsel described as "a novel" application by the plaintiffs to appoint receivers over the horses.

The proceedings are against Jose Alfredo Hernandez Ortega's former partner, Martina Romagnoli, and several Irish-registered companies of which she allegedly is the sole director.
The proceedings are against Jose Alfredo Hernandez Ortega's former partner, Martina Romagnoli, and several Irish-registered companies of which she allegedly is the sole director.

Having the horses put under the control of receivers would damage her reputation, said counsel.

Counsel said while an application to have the dispute admitted to the fast-track Commercial Court list will be made, it was hoped that given the parties' past relationship and that they have a child together, mediation might be considered.

Ms Justice Reynolds adjourned the matter to a date later this month to allow the defendants reply to the application to appoint receivers over the horses.

The judge, noting concerns raised by Mr Dunleavy over the fact the horses are not currently insured, directed that both sets of solicitors liaise with each other over getting coverage for the animals.

The judge also directed that the defendants' solicitors retain both horses' passports for the duration of the proceedings.

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