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Ronan O'Gara pictured earlier this year. LASZLO GECZO/INPHO

'You've fleeced me', Ronan O'Gara told business partner over pub insolvency, court hears

The La Rochelle coach said that he did not have much day to day involvement with the business, but had put up €20,000 to keep it afloat.

A COMPANY WHOSE shareholder include rugby star Ronan O’Gara and businessman Michael O’Flynn has asked the High Court to set aside an allegedly “fraudulent” personal insolvency arrangement made in favour of their fellow shareholder John O’Driscoll.

The application, which is to be opposed by O’Driscoll, has been made by Ezeon Entertainment Limited, a company which purchased and renovated a pub in Cork’s Washington Street called ‘The Silly Goose’ in 2007.

O’Gara, O’Flynn and O’Driscoll, who are known to each other, were equal shareholders in the venture, which was funded by loans from Anglo Irish Bank.

In 2014 O’Flynn took over the borrowings and refinanced the company for €2.2m, which had risen to €2.5m by 2018.

Arising out of that debt it is alleged that O’Driscoll, from Ovens in Cork, owes at least €950,000 to O’Flynn.

O’Driscoll applied for and in March 2022 was granted a Personal Insolvency Arrangement by the Circuit Court in March 2022.

That decision was up held on appeal to the High Court last July.

O’Flynn had attempted to oppose the PIA over the alleged debt to him, but had been prevented from doing so on the grounds that he lacked the legal standing to do so.

However Ezeon has serious issues with the PIA, and wants it set aside over concerns including an alleged misappropriation of just over €15,000 in company funds by O’Driscoll.

It also claims that there is significant stock missing from the company.

Enzon is also concerned about fair procedures in the PIA, as it claims it was not listed as a creditor of O’Driscoll, when he was allegedly in control of the company at the time.

Enzon claims that because it was never given any notice of O’Driscoll’s initial application for protection from his creditors the company was never received a proper opportunity to to object to him being granted a PIA.

It has further concerns over the categorisation of O’Driscoll’s debt to Ezeon.

Ezeon now claims that the debt owed to it by O’Dricoll was not properly specified in the PIA, that it did not know about the PIA until the matter appeared in media reports, and that the process was in effect an alleged fraud on the company.

It did not validly approve the PIA, it further submits.

In a sworn statement to the court O’Gara, who now coaches in France, that he had been friends with and a former teammate of O’Driscoll for many years said that he was “upset and deeply annoyed” by O’Dricoll’s actions.

The La Rochelle coach said that he had no wish to have a personal dispute with O’Driscoll but said that the there had been a material breach of trust.

O’Gara said that while he did not have much day to day involvement with the company, he put money into it including €20,000 to keep it afloat in 2019.

However he said that the had some conversations with O’Driscoll about the business, the alleged misappropriation of funds and the debt owned to O’Flynn.

In one exchange earlier this year O’Gara said to O’Driscoll that “you have fleeced me”.

He said that as a shareholder of Enzon he had not been made aware of O’Driscoll’s bid for a PIA until he read about it in the newspapers.

The claims are denied.

The matter was briefly mentioned before Justice Alexander Owens, the judge presiding over the High Court’s insolvency list, on Monday.

Martin Hayden SC for Enzon said that the matter was complex and involved issues of non-disclosure by O’Driscoll to his client, and an alleged fraud on the Insolvency Service of Ireland.

It was counsel said “a case of something rotten in the State of Denmark.”

The court also heard that the issues being raised by the company were new and fresh and had not been raised before the court previously.

Bernard Dunleavy SC on behalf the respondent’s Personal Insolvency Practitioner said his side wanted time to file a sworn statement in response to the application to set aside the PIA, and the allegations now being made on behalf of Hayden’s client.

O’Flynn could not be allowed to conduct some version of “Lanigan’s Ball where “he steps in and steps out again” by swearing different versions of what he is owed by the company.

O’Flynn’s previous attempt to have the PIA set aside had been dismissed by the High Court in July, after it found that he lacked the legal standing to have O’Driscoll’s arrangement set aside.

An application to have an appeal against that dismissal heard by the Supreme Court has yet to be determined counsel said.

Counsel said that it would be better if all of the applications brought against the PIA were listed together and dealt with at the same time.

Justice Owens, who said that the hearing of all matters together “made sense” said he was prepared to adjourn the matter to a date in mid January to allow Dunleavy’s side to prepare a sworn statement in reply to the application

Aodhan O Faolain