Judge rules against James Mansfield jnr over AIB loan


A HIGH Court judge has ruled that AIB is entitled to summary judgment orders for €6.32 million against four businessmen, including a son of hotelier Jim Mansfield, over unpaid loans to develop lands in Co Meath.

At the Commercial Court yesterday, Mr Justice Peter Kelly granted summary judgment against the four after finding none had made out an arguable defence to the bank’s claim. He placed a stay on the judgment orders for a week to allow consideration of an appeal.

The orders were sought against James Mansfield jnr, Johnstown, Co Kildare; Brian Higgins, Celbridge Road, Leixlip, Co Kildare; Glen O’Callaghan, Drapier Road, Dublin, and Séamus Kavanagh Kyle, Templemore, Co Tipperary.

The bank said the four owed it €6.3 million as a result of loans advanced to them from 2003 in connection with the purchase of a site at Duleek, Co Meath. It was claimed the defendants formed the Duleek Partnership to buy the lands to build apartment blocks, an underground car park and commercial units which were to be sold on.

All four alleged they borrowed from AIB as consumers, within the meaning of the Consumer Credit Act 1995, but that the bank had failed to comply with the requirements of the Act.

Mr Justice Kelly said the men in a partnership which borrowed money from AIB. They did so with a view to investing in property and for its development for profit, thus engaging in business, and the Act had no application.

The judge rejected additional arguments by Mr Mansfield that he was not involved in the partnership. The letter of loan sanction of January 19th, 2009, was accepted by Mr Mansfield and there was no issue about the authenticity of his signature. There was also no issue that the monies were drawn down.

The alleged limited nature of Mr Mansfield’s involvement was never notified to AIB, the judge added. AIB had produced “compelling evidence” demonstrating a much greater involvement by Mr Mansfield than he admitted.

On Mr Mansfield’s claim that his liability to the bank was only for a sixth of the loan, the judge said this was grounded on his claim he had signed documents believing they were something else. This plea was in part based upon an alleged reading disability.

Mr Justice Kelly noted that reports showed Mr Mansfield left technical school after two years without taking exams. His reading fluency had been assessed as that of a seven-year-old.

Given those difficulties, it was surprising to find he could fly a helicopter and was a director of 25 companies for which he had signed annual returns. This suggested he had “a good deal of experience” in understanding commercial and financial matters.

The judge said Mr Mansfield should have told AIB of his problems and taken all reasonable precautions to find out about documents he was signing. He failed to show an arguable defence to summary judgment on such grounds.

None of the defendants, Mr Justice Kelly added, had surmounted the low threshold required to avoid summary judgment.