Members of the well-known international haulage and logistics family, Nolan Transport of Wexford, claim their former solicitor and a former legal advisor allegedly misappropriated nearly €7 million of their pension funds, the High Court has heard.
Ann, Elizabeth, Joan, Richard, Patricia and Sally Nolan, along with Quest Capital Trustees Ltd, are trustees of Oaklands Property Funds pension trust which was set up for the benefit of 13 members of the Nolan family.
The trustees are suing their former solicitor Ciaran Desmond, formerly of McGuire Desmond Solicitors, Cork, and former financial adviser John Millett of John Millett Independent Financial Advisors, Dublin, along with Mr Millett’s associated pension investment company, Pinnacle Pensioner Trustees.
Mr Desmond, who is also an accountant, and Mr Millett, who is representing himself, deny any wrongdoing. Mr Millett says at all times the Nolan plaintiffs dealt with his company and not him but the Nolans say he is not able to rely on his company to escape liability.
The Nolans' case against two other partners in McGuire Desmond Solicitors, Com McGuire and Derval O'Halloran, was struck out on Tuesday.
The court heard the other McGuire Desmond partners, who expelled Mr Desmond from the partnership in 2017, maintained there was no basis for a vicarious liability case against them as was alleged.
Football grounds purchase
Central to the case against the Desmond/Millett defendants is an allegation that in 2013 the Nolans’ money was used as security for a $100 million (€94.9 million) investment loan, which was designed to make a secret profit for Mr Desmond and/or Mr Millett.
It is claimed that as this investment was not capital protected, the Nolans’ funds, which were used as security, are now gone.
The Nolans say €6.96 million was allegedly misappropriated and part of the money, around €2.8 million, was used in September 2013 to buy the Nemo Rangers football grounds in Cork.
This was done through an Isle of Man-registered company called Dildar Ltd (IOM) unknown to the Nolans, it is claimed.
The Nolans seek a declaration from the court that they are the beneficial owners of the Nemo grounds.
However, three men say they are the owners of the Nemo grounds through Dildar and as a result they were allowed to be joined as defendants in the case by order of the court.
The three, Paul Kenny, his son Dillon and Paul's nephew, Darren, say they are the beneficial owners of Dildar IOM through companies called Brookmanor Limited and Woodcraft Limited which are the registered shareholders in Dildar IOM.
A second Dildar company, Dildar Ltd (Ireland), which is the corporate vehicle of the Kennys, is along with Dildar IOM also a defendant in the case.
The Kennys deny the Nolan claims and have counterclaimed for a declaration that they are the beneficial owners of the Nemo property.
A number of foreign-based companies, EFG Bank AG, BNP Paribas Wealth Management, United Overseas Bank Ltd and Allied Finance Trust AG, along with a number of individuals, are third parties in the case.
Mr Desmond has joined the third parties to the proceedings, from whom he claims he is entitled to an indemnity if there is found to be any liability to the Nolans for the loss of their funds.
The Nolan plaintiffs claim that, without their knowledge or consent, Mr Desmond and Mr Millett permitted their funds, which were in an account with EFG Bank in Zurich in the name of a Panamanian company, Clear Vision Solutions SA, to be pledged as collateral in order to obtain finance to purchase investment products to be issued by a number of the third parties in Singapore.
Through a series of events, it is claimed, the bulk of their monies were misappropriated and lost to them.
Opening the case on behalf of the Nolans on Tuesday, Gary McCarthy SC said there were a lot of things that happened with their money that the Nolans did not know about.
They did not know that their money was not being held on trust in a deposit account, as they expected, but was being used as a collateral pledge for the $100 million investment loan.
Counsel said that while Mr Desmond argues the Nolans were aware of what they were getting involved in, the paperwork did not disclose that their assets were being used for the purpose of pledging their assets to borrow €100 million.
The case, which is being heard via a hybrid physical/Trialview remote system, continues before Mr Justice Denis McDonald.