Raymond Doherty 25 Jan 2017 01:55pm

Wilkins Kennedy refused Harlequin appeal

The Court of Appeal has denied top 20 UK accountancy firm Wilkins Kennedy permission to appeal its £9.14m damages payment

In December hotel resort and property developing firm Harlequin was awarded $11.6m (£9.14m) in damages from ex-accountants Wilkins Kennedy following the company's pursuit for damages through the High Court.

Wilkins Kennedy's second and final application for permission to appeal its loss for professional negligence was refused by the Court of Appeal today.

Following the result Harlequin chairman Dave Ames said, "I am delighted for Harlequin investors that Wilkins Kennedy's desperate attempts to delay justice have failed.

“After legal fees, etc., are deducted, the money from this Judgment will be offered as part of Harlequin's Proposal to Harlequin Property (SVG) Limited creditors.”

Lord Justice Jackson in the Court of Appeal said today that he agreed with judge Justice Coulson's judgment in the High Court.

In the original December judgment Justice Coulson said that senior representatives of Wilkins Kennedy did not have “the first clue as to any rule relating to client confidentiality” after deciding to take on Harlequin’s building company ICE as a client without letting the hotel operator know.

Coulson said he accepted the liability claim against Wilkins Kennedy for failing to tell Harlequin about the new contract with ICE. However, he rejected the other two alleged liabilities brought by the company, in respect of ICE's delay and the failure to pass on to Harlequin information confidential to ICE.

Harlequin and ICE were in a “bitter dispute” over the costs associated with building work at the time, the court found.

The judge concluded that ICE was “significantly overpaid”. He said the company should have been paid $24.78m instead of $50.5m.

An “unusually close relationship” developed between ICE’s boss Padraig O’Halloran and Martin MacDonald of Wilkins Kennedy, who was referred to as Harlequin’s chief financial officer or financial director, the judge said.

The High Court found that MacDonald and another Wilkins Kennedy senior representative, Jeremy Newman, then sided with O’Halloran, who misappropriated over $12m from Harlequin’s investors’ money in the Caribbean to buy planes, yachts, and live an extravagant lifestyle at Sandy Lane in Barbados.