Partner denies signing 'flawed' tender

 

A financial adviser has described as "outrageous" suggestions that he withdrew from an alleged partnership to develop a €3.3 million hotel and fishing lodges in Co Mayo to "save face" because a contractor of his choice had failed to secure the contract for the development.

Mr Enda Hunston also told the High Court it was "outrageous" to suggest he had invested "tens of millions" in the UK for the contractor in question, Mr Bernard Mitchell, of the firm Mitchell O'Grady Construction, and that the Co Mayo contract was to be a "payback". He denied he had told an engineer that he had promised the contract to Mitchell O'Grady.

It was "absolutely outrageous" to suggest he had placed his signature in a particular form on a joint investment agreement (JIA) of March 28th, 2002, regarding the development of Mount Falcon Castle, located on a 100-acre site near Ballina, Mr Hunston further said. He had never seen that agreement and never signed it.

He had noted, when examining documents at a later date, that a draft clause requiring parties to the agreement to have their tax affairs in order was not contained in the document allegedly presented on March 28th, 2002. He said his signature was forged on the JIA and this was appalling and had horrified him.

Mr Hunston said he had concerns about the "suspicious and flawed" tender process under which the contract for the development was ultimately awarded.

Although he was a partner in the project, he could not find out what was going on and had received responses from one of his partners, Mr Barry Maloney, which were "not very nice".

Arising from the events surrounding the handling of the tender process, he felt there was no option "but to go our separate ways", Mr Hunston said.

He was being cross-examined by Mr Paul Gallagher SC, for four businessmen who are being sued by Mr Hunston arising from the involvement of all five in the plan to develop Mount Falcon Castle.

The defendants in the case are Mr Barry Maloney, former chief executive of Esat Digifone, Mr Maloney's brothers Alan and James, and Mr Bruce Dunlevie, a UK venture capitalist.

The defendants say the disputed JIA was among a number of documents signed on March 28th, 2002, in relation to the closing of the deal between the vendors of the Mount Falcon site on one hand and Mr Hunston, the Maloney brothers and Mr Dunlevie on the other.

Yesterday, Mr Gallagher said his clients were saying they "certainly did not" forge Mr Hunston's signature on the JIA.

They could not explain why the signature was on the document in that form but were contending the JIA was presented to Mr Hunston for signing on March 28th, 2002.

The hearing before Mr Justice Ó Caoimh resumes on Tuesday.