Longer bankruptcy sought for farmer whose heifers were shot

Overseer says John Hoey ‘abjectly failed’ to co-operate with bankruptcy process

John Hoey at Annacroft livestock farm outside Carrickmacross, Co Monaghan. Photograph: Pat Byrne

John Hoey at Annacroft livestock farm outside Carrickmacross, Co Monaghan. Photograph: Pat Byrne

 

The bankruptcy term of a farmer, who was at the centre of an incident in Co Monaghan last year in which five of his cattle were shot by soldiers, could be extended for 10 years, court documents show.

In an affidavit filed at the High Court, official assignee Chris Lehane sought to extend the bankruptcy of John Hoey, of Annacroft, Carrickmacross, Co Monaghan, from the normal term of one year to 10 years.

He said Mr Hoey had “abjectly failed” to co-operate with the bankruptcy process and went to “extreme lengths” to hide or dispose of assets.

“The extent to which Mr Hoey has frustrated my office in determining the full extent of the bankruptcy estate is unprecedented in my experience and term as official assignee,” Mr Lehane said.

He stated, in an affidavit sworn in February, that signs were erected on various parcels of land owned by Mr Hoey, due to be sold as part of the bankruptcy, to intimidate anyone dealing with the land.

The signs, on properties including lands at Kennellybane and Coolermony, as well as Annacroft and the Wayside Inn, Killanny, Co Louth, read “No Sale Here RIP”, and in some instances included Mr Hoey’s name.

Mr Hoey became bankrupt in February 2016 after a petition had been initiated by John Kelly Fuels, Promenade Road, Dublin, for a debt of more than €260,000. The Criminal Assets Bureau had also been pursuing Mr Hoey for a tax debt of more than €3 million.

Wild and dangerous

He first came to public attention in July 2016 when five of his cattle were shot by soldiers because there were difficulties rounding them up with the rest of the herd, which were taken away to be slaughtered.

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. The shootings were criticised by animal rights advocates, by politicians in the Dáil and on social media.

A significant armed detachment of gardaí was needed to help search Mr Hoey’s property, Mr Lehane had told the court. According to Mr Hoey’s bankruptcy file, Mr Lehane also employed a security company, Risk Management International Ltd (RMI) to help deal with the case.

Mr Lehane listed farm machinery and equipment that was hidden in various locations and said Mr Hoey had attempted to sell two trucks on website Done Deal after he was adjudicated bankrupt.

In June 2016 a sniffer dog discovered €12,000 in cash behind a radiator at Annacroft. And in September, a dog discovered €5,000 in a vacuum-pack in a hayshed.

Mr Lehane also said Mr Hoey had sold some of his herd for more than €146,000 during bankruptcy proceedings. Most of the money had been recovered, he said.

He said investigations and efforts to recover assets, including a a Mercedes and a BMW jeep, were ongoing.

In his replying affidavit, filed in March, Mr Hoey denied he failed to co-operate with Mr Lehane’s office and said he made a full disclosure of his assets and liabilities. He also denied concealing assets and said it would be “illogical”. He denied trying to sell trucks on Done Deal.

“I cannot use the internet,” he said. He also said the trucks did not belong to him, but belonged to a company of which he and his wife were shareholders. He said he did not own some of the other vehicles listed and the €5,000 discovered in the hayshed was not his.

“I have no idea how the money got there,” he said.

‘Bullying tactics’

He also complained of “bullying and intimidatory tactics” used by an employee of RMI. And he said he was still haunted by the shooting of his five heifers and couldn’t understand why he wasn’t asked to round them up. He said the decision to cull his herd was premature and claimed that, prior to their removal, there was no one to assist heifers while giving birth and two calves died and were left to “rot in the field”.

Mr Hoey said he had not used violence or threatened violence to Mr Lehane or any of his agents. He complained about media reports of his case last year, including in The Irish Times, which had outlined Mr Lehane’s safety concerns. He said he had been portrayed as “a dangerous man”, people were now afraid of him and he was “unemployable”.

He also complained Mr Lehane spent more than €430,000 on investigations and recovering assets, and that he sold assets at low prices.

At the end of April, responding to Mr Hoey’s statement, Mr Lehane acknowledged Mr Hoey’s assets may have fetched higher prices, but potential purchasers living in his area were frightened of him, he said.

“The pervasive fear which I have encountered regarding Mr Hoey is unrelated to – and predates – the newspaper reports,” Mr Lehane said.

He said he could not speculate on the basis for that fear.

An interim order was made by the High Court at the end of May, extending Mr Hoey’s bankruptcy period until further orders of the court. The case is ongoing.