Developer says loan for house purchases
A developer accused of making €80,000 in corrupt payments to a politician told gardaí he lent the then councillor money to help him with the purchase of two properties, a court heard yesterday.
Developer Michael Ryan (60), Al Eile Stud, Dungarvan, Co Waterford, and The Sweepstakes, Ballsbridge, Dublin, denies making three corrupt payments totalling €80,000 to former Fine Gael town councillor Fred Forsey jnr in 2006.
He told gardaí he lent money to Mr Forsey who later “disappeared” when Mr Ryan was trying to get the money back.
The payments are alleged by the State to have been made in relation to a 32-hectare piece of land outside Dungarvan which Mr Ryan wanted rezoned from agricultural use to industrial and residential use.
Mr Ryan and his ORS Partnership had options to pay about €6 million to three landowners for the land at Ballygeoghegan, provided it was rezoned for industrial and residential use, the court heard. Two of the landowners were given non-refundable €300,000 payments up front.
In a statement to gardaí in 2008, Mr Ryan said Mr Forsey wasn’t “a buddy of mine” but he did know him and had had a drink with him in The Moorings pub in Dungarvan.
Looking for investment
Mr Forsey had approached him about five or six years previously, looking for investment in a website Mr Forsey wanted to put his driving instruction business on an international basis. On the advice of his accountant, Mr Ryan did not invest in the project, he said in his statement.
“In August 2006, he contacted me by phone,” Mr Ryan told gardaí in 2008 when they visited him at his stud farm. “He was buying two properties in Dungarvan with a view to selling them on. He didn’t say where they were. He said he’d sell them before the contracts closed and then pay me back the money.”
Mr Forsey got his solicitor to draw up a loan agreement and arranged to make payments of €60,000 and €10,000.
About 10 days before Christmas, Mr Forsey contacted him again and said “the house was nearly finished”, he had to get some “extras” for the people buying the house and also that the builders needed money before Christmas.
Mr Ryan said he arranged for €10,000 to be paid and told Mr Forsey to pay him back the following April. Mr Ryan told gardaí the money had “nothing to do with Ballygeoghegan”.
He was never repaid the money by Mr Forsey, he said. “I rang him three or four times about same, but he disappeared. I’m anxious to get the money back. I don’t know where he is.”
The second day of evidence in the trial at Waterford Circuit Court heard from retired county manager Ray O’Dwyer that he was aware in 2006 that “there was significant pressure put on the elected representatives around the application” for planning permission for the land.
Fine Gael county councillor Lola O’Sullivan said she was asked by Mr Forsey in 2006 to attend a meeting in Tramore with the developers of the land and thought that all the other councillors from the area would be present.
In the event, the only other councillors present were Tom Higgins from Dungarvan and Mr Forsey.
John Carey, also a Fine Gael councillor, said he became “suspicious” when asked to attend that meeting in Tramore, because of the venue. “Fine Gael would never meet in O’Shea’s Hotel,” he said, which provoked laughter in court.
The trial continues today.