A British corporate financier was spared jail after it was claimed a custodial sentence would "sink" a €1 billion wind farm in Donegal. However, Donegal County Council said it was unaware of any such planning application.
Michael Chase-Sarver (47), of Twelve Acre Farm, Eynsham, England had pleaded guilty to perverting the course of justice after deceiving authorities when he was caught speeding in March.
In Oxford Crown Court, deputy circuit judge Patrick Eccles said he "deserved" to be jailed but he spared him after dramatic intervention from an Irish businessman.
Engineer and property developer Noel Shortt flew from Derry to tell the court that €1 billion scheme to build a 35,000-acre wind farm in Donegal would "sink" if Chase-Sarver was jailed.
According to the Oxford Mail newspaper, Mr Shortt said investors were due to meet the two men in Dublin this week. The father of one, who has invested €2 million in the project which he said was set to create 300 jobs, said the deal – the work of Chase-Sarver – would collapse if the defendant was jailed and he, Mr Shortt, would lose his property portfolio and his house.
Mr Shortt said he had lease agreements with more than 100 farmers in Donegal for the 35,000-acre site. The project must be up and running by December 2017 or it would lose a Government subsidy, Mr Shortt told the Oxford court, adding this means turbines would need to be ordered by November this year.
The cost of phase one of the nine-phase project, the installation of 13 turbines, would be €60 million, he said in evidence – with the overall cost estimated at around €1 billion.
However, Donegal County Council said yesterday that it was unaware of any planning application for such a development and Mr Shortt could not be contacted.
The judge brandished Chase-Sarver as “unbelievably dishonest” but said he could not allow an honest man’s life and 300 potential jobs be ruined by his actions.
After being caught speeding earlier this year, Chase-Sarver, who has previously worked for Barclays and Lehman Brothers and now runs his own company, had his car resprayed, convinced the garage which did the work to backdate the job and told police his registration plates were being fraudulently used by someone else.
He was sentenced to four months in jail, suspended for two years, and given a four-month curfew which requires him to be at his Eynsham home everyday between 6pm and 6am.