Businessman agrees to surrender passport in €7m dispute

Landlord John Meagher being pursued by National Irish Bank

The Four Courts in Dublin.  Photograph: Bryan O’Brien/The Irish Times

The Four Courts in Dublin. Photograph: Bryan O’Brien/The Irish Times

 

Landlord John Meagher has agreed before the Commercial Court to surrender his passport in a legal dispute with a bank pursuing him for some €7 million.

Mr Meagher also agreed to take steps to address his contempt of orders requiring him disclose his assets to the bank.

Mr Meagher, whose arrest was ordered last month by Mr Justice Peter Kelly, appeared voluntarily before the judge today saying he was based in India and Sri Lanka over the past few months and was unaware of the court proceedings until a friend rang him in India to say he was “all over the papers”. He was involved in a holiday resort development in the Tamil area, he said.

“I don’t feel I’ve committed any great crime,” Mr Meagher said

While he apologised to the court and appreciated it took the matter seriously, he regarded it as “a business matter” and did not understand the attitude adopted by Danske Bank, trading as National Irish Bank, towards him.

The judge told Mr Meagher he was in contempt and should be in custody but was not because gardai had been unable to execute the warrant. Mr Meagher was in “a very serious position”, must address the bank’s concerns and not leave the country until he did so, he added.

He directed Mr Meagher be in Garda custody until he surrendered his passport. It was “very unsatisfactory” Mr Meagher claimed he knew nothing about this case when he was involved in another court case in which solicitors representing him were informed about this case, the judge added.

Mr Meagher initially said he believed his passport was in Cobh but later said it might be in Dublin. After a short adjournment, he produced his passport following which the judge adjourned the case to Tuesday to allow him address various issues.

Danske Bank had obtained orders omn June 24th directing gardai to arrest Mr Meagher over his failure to provide by mid-June a sworn statement of his assets as ordered by the judge in preparation for a court examination about his assets scheduled for today.

It sought those orders over his failure to pay a €6.98m judgment obtained last February over unpaid loans secured on five properties at Charlemont Street, Dublin.

When the case was called today, Rossa Fanning, for the bank, said it had received no communication from Mr Meagher and he had still not provided the sworn statement of means necessary for a useful cross-examination.

When Mr Meagher’s name was called, he told the judge he was unaware the bank had obtained judgment against him, or of its application for attachment and committal orders, until a friend phoned him in India.

He said he wanted the defend the judgment and argued the bank was being “disingenuous” in relation to its dealings with him as he was a client of it for 17 years on first name terms and in contact with it until last January. The bank sent the case documents to a house in Ashbourne where he never lived and, when in Ireland he stayed in Cobh, Co Cork, and at a property owned by him in Dublin’s Dorset Street, he said. He had “cordial” dealings with other banks and sold properties to discharge debts to those, he added

He said he had spoken last Friday about the contempt matter to solicitors acting for him in another case brought by him against Dublin City Council over monies allegedly owed to him and was told there were issues he had to address and he had to be in court on July 10th, he said.

Mr Meagher counsel’s suggestion that his lawyers must have contacted him and he had told them not to accept service of the documents on his behalf.

Mr Fanning said, while not satisfied with Mr Meagher’s “excuses and explanations”, the bank’s aim was to have him comply with the order requiring sworn disclosure.  If Mr Meagher would comply now, the court could choose to extend time for him to do so, he said.

A receiver appointed by the bank over various properties at Charlemont Street has also brought proceedings against Mr Meagher. The last full payment by Mr Meagher on the Danske loans was in January 2012 and the bank later agreed to accept interest only repayments as negotiations continued. After they failed, a final letter of demand was sent in January last.

Dublin City Council had in 2012 exercised a break clause in its lease with Mr Meagher for two properties on Charlemont Street and he claimed this materially contributed to his inability to make repayments on the loans as they fell due. He also claimed the risk of the council exercising its break clause was relayed to the bank when he entered into the loan agreement in 2011.