Verdict is likely today in consultant's fraud case


A verdict is expected today in the trial of a Co Clare financial consultant accused of defrauding a former Galway bookmaker of £124,000. Judge Raymond Groarke will complete his charge to the jury at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court this morning.

Mr James Alan Conlan (51), of Ardnataggle, O'Brien's Bridge, Killaloe, Co Clare, faces four charges involving £124,000 which was the property of Ms Fiona Connelly, Caritas House, Ballybane Road, Galway. He has pleaded not guilty to three charges of fraudulent conversion of sums of £66,212, £24,000 and £33,789 on dates from September 20th, 1991, to December 9th, 1992. He has also pleaded not guilty to one charge of obtaining £24,000 from Ms Connelly by false pretences.

Ms Connelly has told the jury the accused advised her to invest £35,000 in a Norwich Union bond and £100,000 in an Isle of Man company called Hansard International which, he said, paid a guaranteed return. She accepted his advice to cash in various policies and handed over the money to him around September 1991. The accused told her he had placed the £100,000 in Hansard and once sent her a cheque for £7,120 which he claimed was interest.

She said that after several months of asking the accused for evidence that he had invested her £100,000 in Hansard, he got her to sign a document giving him power of attorney and gave her a document which she took to be confirmation of the transaction.

She contacted Hansard in October 1992 and was shocked to learn there was no investment in her name. Mr Conlan persisted in telling her it did exist but finally admitted he had invested her £100,000 in his country house hotel project at Killaloe, called Ryehill Lodge.

Ms Connelly said that in December 1992 the accused told her he was raising a £750,000 loan from a German bank and unless he succeeded she would lose her £100,000 investment. He said he needed £59,000 "to prime" the loan. She assigned her £35,000 Norwich Union bond, along with £24,000 she raised otherwise, to provide this money.

Mr Conlan has denied that he told Ms Connelly her £100,000 would be invested directly in Hansard. He said Ms Connelly wanted "anonymity" concerning the money. He told her it would go into his business account and "at some time" he would arrange £100,000 to be lodged for her in the Isle of Man in a "contra arrangement".

Mr Conlan agreed with Mr Michael McMahon SC, prosecuting, that he would not advise any other client to participate in such a scheme and did so for Ms Connelly because she was then a friend. He did not tell Ms Connelly he was going to put her £100,000 into his Ryehill Lodge project. She "knew" the money was going into his account.

Mr Conlan also told the jury Ms Connelly told him there was a £5,000 contract out for him to be shot. Some time after that he was confronted by a gunman on Baggot Street, Dublin, in daylight. When gardai suddenly arrived, the gunman disappeared into the crowd. He agreed with Mr McMahon he did not tell detectives about this "contract" in 1995.