Defendants 'no longer wish to contest' French film star Dany Boon's claims against them

The court heard that one defendant is most likely " a fictitious person"
Defendants 'no longer wish to contest' French film star Dany Boon's claims against them

Dany Boon (pictured) alleges that last year he advanced monies to entities linked to Mr Birles, whom it is alleged had represented himself to be an "Irish Lord from an ancient family" and an expert lawyer in maritime law. Picture via Wikipedia

Several parties accused of defrauding the well-known French film star Dany Boon out of millions of euro "no longer wish to contest the claims against them", the High Court has heard.

The court had heard in late July that several of the defendants had intended to fully defend the claims against them.

In July, lawyers representing Daniel or Dany Boon secured a temporary High Court freezing order preventing Thierry Fialek-Birles aka Terry Birles aka Thierry Waterford-Mandeville and several corporate entitles he allegedly either controls or is the ultimate beneficial owner of from reducing their assets below a value of €6m.

Mr Boon also secured various disclosure orders requiring the defendants to provide him with various documentation in an attempt to ascertain where his money has gone.

The corporate defendants in the action are South Sea Merchant's Mariners Ltd Partnership (SSMM), Hibernian Petroleum Limited Partnership, United Irish Estates Limited and Hibernian Yachts Company Limited which are all Irish-registered entities, and the Samoa-registered United Far East Oriental Holdings (Samoa) Ltd.

Mr Boon claims that he is the victim of "a systemic and elaborate fraud with an international dimension". The claims had been denied and the court previously heard that the defendants had engaged the services of Irish-based legal firms with a view to fully contesting the various orders made against them.

At Tuesday's vacation sitting before Mr Justice Brian O'Moore, Rossa Fanning SC for Mr Boon said there had been "significant developments in the case since it was last before the court".

Counsel said Mr Birles and several other defendants, except SSMM, had failed to comply with a court order to disclose full details about financial transactions concerning his client's money. This failure, counsel said, amounted to a contempt of court and Mr Boon's lawyers had sought full disclosure of relevant material including banking transactions from the defendants.

The matter was raised with Mr Birles' lawyers. The court heard that Mr Birles had agreed to provide the information sought by the end of September. However, Mr Birles has not produced the material nor any evidence to back up his claim that he had sold his interest in SSMM to the Rossi family in Italy.

Mr Birles informed his solicitor that he, and the other corporate parties represented by that firm, no longer wished to participate in the proceedings brought by Mr Boon. As a result, the solicitors' firm intends to seek an order from the court allowing it to come of record and formally cease representing those defendants.

Mr Fanning said that there had been a further development in the case regarding the position of SSMM. SSMM is the entity which Mr Birles claims he paid €6.7m to for various purposes, but alleges it was used by Mr Birles to defraud him.

"Fictitious person"

In early September, another firm of solicitors had agreed to represent SSMM, which up to then had been unrepresented in the action. Mr Birles, counsel said, had previously indicated an intention to join the Rossi family as third parties to the proceedings.

The court heard that the firm had received instructions from a person claiming to be a Mr Marco Rossi on behalf of SSMM. Despite being provided with a purported image of Mr Rossi's passport, the firm was unable to establish if the person giving it instructions on behalf of SSMM was who they said they were.

'Mr Rossi' had said that he was unable to speak with the solicitors' firm via a video call as he claimed he was "travelling in Asia". 

Eventually, Mr Rossi informed the firm that after receiving legal advice in Korea he also no longer wanted SSMM to participate in the case before the court. This resulted in the firm withdrawing its representation.

Mr Fanning said that he made no criticism of the solicitors in question, but said what had happened, and in particular the refusal to engage in a video call from China, Korea, or wherever this person claimed to be, increased his client's belief that the Rossis do not exist.

The identity of the person giving the instructions on behalf of SSMM "could not be verified", and counsel said that the Marco Rossi in question is most likely " a fictitious person".

Arising out of these developments counsel said that the situation had gone from being one where "all the defendants were represented to a situation where none of them are represented" and that Mr Boon's action may not be contested.

Counsel said his client may also have to bring further motions in the proceedings, including ones adding possible new defendants, and possibly one for contempt of court against Mr Birles. Mr Justice O'Moore, who noted the case as being "colourful", agreed to adjourn the matter to a date in October and continued the freezing orders against the defendants.

He said he was satisfied to do this in light of the various applications made by solicitors who had represented the various defendants, and where it was alleged by Mr Boon that the Mr Rossi was "an imposter". The position being adopted by the defendants was "unusual" and "less than optimal", the judge said.

However, the judge noted that the defendants' attitudes toward the proceedings may change when the action returns before the court.

In his action, Mr Boon alleges that last year he advanced monies to entities linked to Mr Birles, whom it is alleged had represented himself to be an "Irish Lord from an ancient family" and an expert lawyer in maritime law.

Mr Boon claims that based on Mr Birles advice that in July 2021 he invested €4.5m of his money through SSMM in a scheme with the Irish Central Bank he alleges Mr Birles told him paid 3.25% annual interest that was tax free.

Mr Boon subsequently discovered that no such scheme exists and, despite making several requests, the funds have not been returned to him. Mr Boon also claims that he advanced a further €2.2m, through SSMM, to cover the costs of running yacht but does not yet know how much of that sum has been misappropriated.

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