Senator O’Brien has net liabilities of over €12.8 million, court hears

5 November 2010 No Comments by The Northern Standard

Mid-Monaghan based Fianna Fáil senator, Francie O’Brien has a deficit of over €12.8 million in liabilities over assets, according to a statement of affairs submitted to the Commercial Court hearing in which he and three others, including former Irish Nationwide CEO Michael Fingleton are being pursued by Ulster Bank for a multi-million euro loan taken out to invest in a property in Co Cavan.

At the hearing on Monday of this week, Mr Justice Peter Kelly of the High Court granted Ulster Bank a summary judgment for €13.6 million against Mr Fingleton for repayment of the development loan.

The judge also granted summary judgment for €12 million (the amount of the original loan granted to the four men on 19th June 2006) against Senator O’Brien, of Corwillan, Latton, Castleblayney and two Monaghan men, Charles McGuinness, of Tully House, Monaghan and Noel Mulligan, of Moyles, Castleshane.

Senator O’Brien, Mr McGuinness and Mr Mulligan had not defended  the €12 million application, but are contesting how the remaining €1.6 million was arrived at. The court ruled that their liability with regard to that sum will be decided at a later date.

The statement of affairs given in relation to Senator O’Brien is understood to have listed his assets at €430,000 while his liabilities came to €13.3 million, most of which came from borrowings for development properties.

In awarding the judgement for €13.6 million against Mr Fingleton, Mr Justice Kelly had described it as extraordinary that the former Irish Nationwide chief executive’s pension of €27 million had not been declared in a hand-written statement of affairs submitted last March. The pension “eclipsed” all his other assets (which came to about €10 million and included properties in Dublin, Donegal, Mayo and Wicklow) the judge stated.

While the summary judgement was not disputed by Mr Fingleton, his defence counsel raised issues about the manner in which the bank appeared to have relied on media reports about him while arriving at its decision to grant the loan.

The loan is understood have been “joint and severally liable”, meaning that the bank can pursue any or all of the four borrowers for the full amount.

It was re-issued in a new facility in May 2008 to cover €13.2 million (with an extra €500,000 to provide for the roll-up of interest) as planning permission was being awaited on the lands purchased at Swellan Upper and Lower, Co Cavan. The 50-acre site is now valued at around €3.7 million, Ulster Bank has claimed.

Counsel for the bank said that the net worth statements received from the four defendants in March had been one of the factors that brought about the decision to demand repayment.

An application for a stay on the registration and execution of the judgment (as negotiations with the bank continue and hope for planning permission remains) was rejected by Mr Justice Kelly.

It was alleged on RTÉ’s Primetime Investigates last December that Mr O’Brien, who has been an Agricultural Panel member of the senate since 1989, had borrowed €7 million from Irish Nationwide, in a loan said to have been “fast-tracked” with the approval of Mr Fingleton. In April of this year, the Mail on Sunday claimed Senator O’Brien’s borrowings from Irish Nationwide came to €10 million.

In 2006, the Irish Independent reported that he spent millions of euro on agricultural land outside Inniskeen. The land was never rezoned, however, after a motion to do so was opposed by Fine Gael and Sinn Féin members of Monaghan Co Council.

Both Senator O’Brien and Mr McGuinness were top table guests at the recent Chamber of Commerce event in Monaghan which was addressed by An Taoiseach Brian Cowen.

Comments are closed.