Senior AIB pair own property portfolios


Two bankers at the centre of an inquiry into their private activities have extensive property investments

AN EXAMINATION of land registry files has shown that the two senior AIB bankers who are currently the focus of an internal bank inquiry over their private commercial activities have substantial property investments around the State.

John Hughes, AIB’s head of business banking in Galway, and Tommy Hopkins, a senior executive with AIB Commercial Services in Bankcentre, Ballsbridge, Dublin, have been involved in substantial property deals.

Mr Hughes has said there is no conflict of interest created by his involvement in property while also working with the bank.

“If I’m doing anything inappropriate, there would be a conflict, but I’m not.” He said he was aware of the terms of the bank’s code of ethics and was compliant with them.

Cork Land Registry files show that Mr Hughes, along with businessmen Michael O’Regan, of Blarney, Co Cork, and Michael Melville, of Oranmore, Co Galway, bought property at the Blarney Business Park in February 1999.

A charge against their holding in the name of Anglo Irish Bank was registered in November 2000.

Leases signed on various parts of the property with other parties were registered over the course of the period 2002 to 2006.

One lease, dated April 2002, was with John Hughes, Donal Dooley and Tom Browne. Another lease, dated October 2002, was with a John Bowen. No addresses are given.

The business park is a €100 million, 70-acre project developed by MORH Enterprises Ltd in the early years of this decade. The Bowen group was the main contractor.

Mr Hughes is involved in property investment with the former director of Anglo Irish Bank, Tom Browne, who retired in 2007.

Mr Hughes and his wife Margaret are directors and shareholders of companies that have their business address “care of” Oran Pre-Cast Ltd, in Oranmore, which banks with AIB in Eyre Square.

Mr Melville and Mr Dooley are shareholders in Oran Pre-Cast. Mr O’Regan is a director of a number of companies, some of which bank with AIB Eyre Square.

Galway Land Registry files show that in October 2000 Donal Dooley sold a unit at Castlegar, on the Tuam Road, outside Galway, to Mr Hughes and Tom Browne, both at an address at Maunsells Road, Galway. A charge on the property with Lombard and Ulster Bank was registered in 2006.

Mayo Land Registry files show Mr Hughes and Mr Hopkins purchased land outside Westport in 2001 and registered a charge with EBS.

In 2006 John Hughes bought property at Monksland, Athlone, Co Roscommon, along with Dermot Hughes. Other property at this site was bought by a group of men whose addresses are care of an address at Bushy Park, Co Galway. The names include John Hughes, Thomas Hopkins and Donal Dooley. There is a charge on the land from Anglo Irish Bank.

John Hughes is associated with commercial units at the Monksland Business Park by way of the Ballybrit Partnership, a name through which Monksland properties have been offered for rent.

Mr Hughes and Mr Browne lease space in Galway office buildings to the State under the name of the partnership.

Mr Hughes and Mr Browne are the owners of property at Milltown, Co Kerry, purchased last year. There is a charge against the property from EBS.

Mr Hopkins and Maireád Hopkins, of the same address in Dublin, are the owners of land at Rathfarnham, Dublin, along with Thomas and Mary Durcan, also with an address in Dublin.

Mr Hopkins and Mr Durcan are also the owners of land at Donabate, while Mr Hopkins was the owner of property at Balrothery, near Balbriggan, Co Dublin, with a charge from First Active, which has since been cancelled.

Mr Hopkins and Mr Durcan are shareholders in Marchbury Properties, with an address at Mr Hopkins’s Dublin home. The company built 222 houses in Balbriggan in the year to the end of April 2007. It lost €7.24 million last year and had loans in excess of €23 million at that year’s end.

Mr Durcan and Ms Durcan are the owners of Kingbrook Builders Ltd, Terenure, Dublin, which banks with the AIB Bankcentre branch in Ballsbridge.

Mr Hughes, Mr Hopkins and Mr Durcan are shareholders of Banagher Investments Ltd, a property development company with an outstanding mortgage with Anglo Irish Bank registered against property in Stoneybatter, Dublin.

Mr Hopkins and Mr Durcan are the registered owners of land at Maynooth, Co Kildare.

Mr Hopkins is the part owner of three portfolios of land in Kells, Co Meath, owned in conjunction with Frank Higgins and Thomas Castles, both with addresses in Co Meath. Part of the land was purchased in 1999 with a charge from ICC Bank.

Mr Castles and Ms Hopkins each own one of the two issued shares in Athboy Management Services Ltd, a company based in Athboy, Co Meath.

As previously reported, Mr Hughes and Mr Browne purchased a substantial office property some years ago at Fairgreen, Galway, from Bernard McNamara’s Castlehope Ltd. Tenants in the building include the Revenue Commissioners, on whose behalf the OPW pays an annual rent of €1.2 million.

The Ballybrit Partnership is also associated with property at Dockgate in Galway City and houses in Clifden. The Department of Agriculture is a tenant at the Dockgate property.

Mr Hopkins did not return a call to his office and Mr Hughes had no comment to make.