Armed gardaí needed to search farm where cattle killed

Criminal Assets Bureau had €3.48 million judgment against landowner John Hoey

Bankruptcy officer Chris Lehane required "a significant armed detachment of An Garda Síochána" to search the property of the man at the centre of the heifer shooting incident in Monaghan earlier this week. He applied to court in secret for approval to search property and seize goods, court documents on file at the Examiner's Office show.

In an affidavit filed with the High Court in May, Mr Lehane, the official assignee in charge of bankruptcies, said he had been advised by gardaí that the landowner, John Hoey, was known to them and "under no circumstances" was Mr Lehane or his staff to attempt to execute a search warrant without armed gardaí. He said Garda support was "essential to preserve the safety of my staff and the public".

Documents also show the Criminal Assets Bureau was pursuing Mr Hoey and had a judgment against him for a tax debt of €3.48 million.

Mr Hoey, Annacroft, Carrickmacross, came to public prominence earlier this week when the five remaining cattle on his land were shot by soldiers. The shootings were criticised by animal rights advocates, by politicians in the Dáil and on social media.

Mr Lehane, whose function it is to seize and sell the property of bankrupts and discharge their debts, had described the animals as “wild and dangerous” and said they could not be caught by experts. He said the shootings were carried out in the interests of the cattle, public safety of the local community, and to prevent the spread of TB in local livestock.

Bankruptcy proceedings

In July 2015, John Kelly Fuels, Promenade Road, Dublin, filed documents to initiate bankruptcy proceedings against Mr Hoey. The petitioner said he was owed more than €260,000.

On foot of that petition, Mr Hoey was declared bankrupt on February 29th this year. He did not challenge the bankruptcy order.

On May 25th, a warrant was granted to Mr Lehane to search The Oasis Hotel, Kingscourt Road, Carrickmacross. Documents show Mr Lehane believed that Mr Hoey had concealed assets on the lands and premises. In an affidavit of May 25th, Mr Lehane said he had obtained search warrants on March 29th and April 6th for search and seizure on lands in Monaghan and Louth.

He seized two John Deere tractors, a JCB, a feeder and a cattle trailer. At Thomastown Trucking, Centrepoint Business Park, Dundalk, Co Louth, he seized a Scania truck and trailer, registered to Hoey Fuels Freight Ltd in Northern Ireland, of which Mr Hoey was the principal shareholder.

Mr Lehane said further assets were unaccounted for, notwithstanding Mr Hoey’s obligation to account for all assets and surrender them. He said he believed they were “concealed at outhouses and enclosed yards” at the Oasis Hotel. The assets included two articulated trailers, a hay-turning machine, a fertiliser spreader and a fodder beet-crushing machine.

He also said Mr Hoey had sought to sell assets after he was made a bankrupt. In circumstances where the Cab had obtained a judgment against Mr Hoey, he had contacted gardaí in Carrickmacross. He was advised “under no circumstances” to execute any search without armed gardaí.

Mr Lehane sought the search warrant ex-parte, without notifying Mr Hoey. He told the court the presence of gardaí, for the search, ought not to be disclosed to Mr Hoey in advance of the order. To do so would “compromise the safety of the operation”.

The application to the High Court was heard in private. Mr Lehane had said that was necessary “for security and safety reasons”. He also said there was no objection to publication once the execution of the warrant had been “safely achieved”.

In March, Mr Lehane had also obtained search warrants for other properties connected with Mr Hoey, including the farm at Annacroft and property at Coolreagh and Coolremony, Co Monaghan.

‘Real and imminent risk’

An affidavit, filed on March 29th, by a detective chief superintendent from the Cab, said an assessment of Mr Hoey’s taxes for 2007-2012 amounted to €3.48 million. He said there was a “real and imminent risk” that Mr Hoey would attempt to sell or move his goods, machinery and livestock.

Mr Lehane said there were 83 cattle on Mr Hoey’s land, valued at €160,000. He also said he was sent a “private irrevocable contract of trust”, advising him Mr Hoey had placed all of his property in a trust. However, he added, this did not have “any real effect”. He also said Mr Hoey had told him in a phone call that he would sell his property.

Mr Lehane said Mr Hoey had three properties in his sole name – land at Annacroft and Coolreagh and Hoey’s Bar, Killanny, Co Louth, also called Wayside Inn.

He had two properties with his wife, from whom he is separated; Crann Nua, Carrickmacross, and Cloughvalley Stores, Shercock Road, Co Monaghan.

He also had a beneficial interest in Annacroft House, where he lives. Mr Lehane said that property was purchased for almost €1.4 million by a friend and associate of Mr Hoey, through what was “purported to be a deed of trust”. Mr Hoey also retained an interest in property at Coolremony, which he transferred to his wife in December 2012.

In his statement of affairs, filed with the High Court in November 2015, Mr Hoey disclosed that he had interests in Ardee Service Station Ltd, at Crann Nua, Carrickmacross and in J Hoey & Sons Oil and Coal Distribution Ltd, Dublin Road, Ardee, Co Louth. There were also companies described as dissolved, discontinued or in liquidation.

Mr Hoey also declared livestock worth €160,000, pub stock worth €2,000, two tractors worth €80,000 and a land cruiser worth €10,000. He also listed six properties, including at Crann Nua and Annacroft.

He declared debts of almost €1 million, owed to companies including Morgan Fuels, Dundalk, Mercedes Benz Finance and BMW Finance. He also owed rates of to Louth County Council and mortgages to banks for his home and pub. His statement said he had a monthly income of €5,000, living expenses of €1,872 and other costs totalling €3,128.

Separately, it has emerged that Mr Hoey came to an agreement with Monaghan County Council last year, after works he carried out on his land at Killanny caused flooding on a public road.

Mr Hoey had moved soil from his land on one side of the road to a lower meadow on the opposite side. This meant the road was lower than adjacent fields and flooded easily. It was closed for up to six months before an agreement was reached with Mr Hoey to raise the road and have it resurfaced.