Thursday, July 21, 2022

High Court reporters

A freezing order made against several parties accused of defrauding a well-known French actor, writer and film director Dany Boon out of millions of euros has been varied by the High Court.

Earlier this month 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 entities he allegedly either controls or is the ultimate beneficial owner of from reducing their assets below a value of €6 million.

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 alleges that last year he advanced €6.7 million 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 in July 2021, based on Mr Birles advice, he invested €4.5 million of his money through SSMM in a scheme with the Irish Central Bank, which he alleged Mr Birles told him paid 3.25 per cent annual interest that was tax free.

Mr Boon said he subsequently discovered that no such scheme exists and, despite making several requests, the funds have not been returned to him.

He also claims that he advanced a further €2.2 million, through SSMM, to cover the costs of running yacht.

Mr Boon’s lawyers acknowledge that it is not yet known how much of that sum has been allegedly misappropriated.

Freezing order

When the matter returned before the High Court on Thursday, Mr Justice Brian O’Moore said he was prepared to vary the freezing order so lawyers, who are willing to come on record and represent Mr Birles and all of the corporate defendants except SSMM, can be paid.

That entity was not represented in court, and the judge was satisfied that it had been served with documents in the case.

The judge, following an application by Rossa Fanning SC for Mr Boon, said he was prepared to vary the order to allow the lawyers willing to represent Mr Birles and four of the corporate defendants be paid €50,000 plus VAT.

The judge agreed with Mr Fanning that a condition of the variations should be that Mr Boon’s lawyers be given details about the source of those funds.

The court also heard that in a recently published media interview Mr Birles has denied the allegations against him and said he would “challenge the baseless accusations against him.”

The judge, noting that the long legal vacations will commence at the end of July, said that given the serious nature of the allegations that the application to keep the freezing order in place until the final determination of the dispute, should be heard as soon as possible.

The judge fixed the hearing of that application to a date next week.

‘Somewhere in the Caribbean’

While it was accepted that was not a very long period for the defendants’ lawyers to prepare, the judge said that given the contents of the media report Mr Birles, who the court heard is somewhere in the Caribbean, was aware of the allegations against him.

The judge said he was continuing the freezing orders granted last week against Mr Birles and the four defendants which have sought legal representation.

In respect of SSMM the judge said he was satisfied to make an order keeping the injunction against that company in place until the after the full hearing of Mr Boon’s action against it.

Mr Justice O’Moore previously granted Mr Boon a freezing or Mareva-type injunction restraining the defendants from reducing, moving or dissipating any of their assets below a value of €6 million.

The freezing order prevents Mr Birles from moving a sailboat he allegedly owns called the ‘Erin’ from its current location at Crosshaven in Co Cork.

The order also prevents the defendants from dissipating or transferring funds allegedly held in various bank accounts.

The order further restrains the defendants from disposing or transferring a property located at Strand Street, Youghal, Co Cork, allegedly beneficially owned by Mr Birles, that Mr Boon believes was acquired with his money.

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.

‘Elaborate fraud’

Previously Mr Fanning said his client is the victim of an “elaborate fraud” allegedly committed by Mr Birles, who told Mr Boon “lie after lie” about a variety of matters.

Mr Birles had committed the fraud by using a network of companies he had appeared to have established in Ireland and other jurisdictions and is somebody who “goes by several different aliases,” counsel added.

The Belgian-based Mr Boon has made the allegations thanks to findings made by a private firm of investigators he had hired due to his concerns about Mr Birles.

His investigation was sparked off following an anonymous tip-off from a person who claimed to have also been a victim of a fraud allegedly committed by Mr Birles, counsel said.

Counsel said that following a recommendation from a mutual associate last year Mr Boon, a keen sailor, engaged Mr Birles, to help provide services for the actor’s yacht ‘Umaren’.

Mr Birles, it is claimed advised him to utilise the Dublin-registered SSMM.

Mr Birles allegedly told Mr Boon that he was a partner of SSMM which his family established over 100 years ago, to provide special marine services for Mr Boon’s yacht.

Mr Fanning, with Alison Keirse Bl instructed by McCann Fitzgeralds solicitors, said Mr Boon advanced over €2.2 million through SSMM to cover the costs of running the yacht.

He claims he was later informed by Mr Birles that SSMM had been taken over by an Italian family called Rossi, and that he was staying on with the firm as an advisor.

When Mr Boon sought his money back from SSMM he was informed by a person purporting to be a member of the Rossi that the money had been transferred to accounts in South Korea and Panama would be returned to him in due course.

Despite his requests SSMM, who Mr Birles later said had dispensed with his services, has not returned his money.

He claims that the investigation revealed that SSMM was a vehicle of the fraud, that the Rossi family who supposed acquired SSMM does not exist, and that any messages from them were actually from Mr Birles.

In addition, the purported investment scheme with the Irish Central Bank was also not real, Mr Fanning said.

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