Developer denies paying councillor €80,000 to rezone
Payments totalling €80,000 which a property developer made to a councillor were a “bung” designed to secure the politician’s services in trying to get planning permission for a piece of land, a court has heard.
Developer Michael Ryan (60), Al Eile Stud, Dungarvan, Co Waterford, and The Sweepstakes, Ballsbridge, Dublin, denies making three corrupt payments totalling €80,000 to then Fine Gael town councillor Fred Forsey jnr in 2006.
The payments are alleged to have been made in relation to a piece of land outside Dungarvan which Mr Ryan wanted rezoned from agricultural to industrial and residential use.
Mr Forsey’s estranged wife, Jenny Forsey, told a trial at Waterford Circuit Court yesterday that her husband told her, at a time when he owed her money, that “Michael Ryan was going to give him €10,000”.
Mrs Forsey said in the witness box that the couple’s finances were “strained” in 2006 and they remortgaged their house in Dungarvan for €30,000. Asked if they had much cash to hand, she said it was a “struggle”.
She did not know Mr Ryan but remembered being in the outdoor area of a pub in July 2006 and seeing her husband speaking to him inside the pub.
The following month, her husband came home one Wednesday or Thursday and said the family was going to Rome on holiday. He “appeared to have cash” while on the four-day holiday in August, she said. “He had a wallet of cash.”
On their return they bought “quite a lot of things for the house”, including windows, a fireplace, carpets and furniture.
They separated some weeks later and Mr Forsey moved out of their home in late September or early October.
Early in December 2006, Mr Forsey borrowed €10,000, as he said he needed a car to make money from his driving instruction business. The loan was from her share of the money they had received for remortgaging the house.
She insisted on getting the money back and, on December 22nd things came to a head. “I really lost my temper and we had war. He told me he would get the money back. He said Michael Ryan was going to give him €10,000.”
She “had been threatening him [Mr Forsey] all day” and made a “verbal threat to his face when I turned up at the house”. Mr Forsey paid her back the €10,000 in three stages, she said.
Under cross-examination, she agreed that she became aware “he had a relationship with another woman” unbeknownst to her.
She also agreed with Patrick Gageby SC, defending, that, when Mr Forsey “effectively moved out”, he was “still trying to pretend he wasn’t living with this other woman” and that he “basically abandoned his obligations” in the summer 2007 when he “cleared off to Australia”.
Opening the trial yesterday, Alex Owens SC, prosecuting, said it was the State’s case that Mr Ryan paid €60,000, €10,000 and €10,000 in 2006 to Mr Forsey because of his position in supporting the rezoning of a piece of land outside Dungarvan for industrial and “high-end” residential use.
“These payments by Mr Ryan were not on account of any legitimate purposes and that the sole explanation was that they were a bung, in order to get the services provided by Mr Forsey in relation to trying to secure this planning permission,” Mr Owens said.
Fine Gael TD John Deasy told the court that in 2006 Mr Forsey contacted him and asked him to support the rezoning of the piece of land. Mr Forsey told him the developer was going to “create hundreds of jobs in Dungarvan” but when he asked for details of the industrial clients involved, details were not forthcoming.
Council officials were “dismissive, to say the least” of the plan, Mr Deasy said.
The trial continues today.