Property developer on trial over corrupt payments

Wednesday 30 January 2013 19.21
Michael Ryan pleaded not guilty to three charges of making corrupt payments
Michael Ryan pleaded not guilty to three charges of making corrupt payments

A property developer has gone on trial in Waterford on three charges of making corrupt payments.

Michael Ryan, 60, with addresses at Al Eile Stud, Dungarvan and The Sweepstakes, Ballsbridge, Dublin has pleaded not guilty.

He is charged with making corrupt gifts in 2006 totalling €80,000 to Fred Forsey Junior, who was then a Dungarvan town councillor.

It is alleged there were three payments - one of €60,000 and two each of €10,000.

It is also alleged that the monies were made as an inducement or reward to Forsey Jnr to use his position as a councillor to help rezone lands outside Dungarvan.

The trial, which is due to last a week and a half, heard from the first witnesses today, including two local Fine Gael TDs and Jenny Forsey, the former wife of Forsey Jnr.

In an opening statement, the prosecution said the matter relates to lands at Ballygagin, just outside of the Dungarvan town council area, where Mr Ryan and Brian Shanley, a local businessman, got together in February 2006 to arrange the purchase of two parcels of land from farmers.

Each farmer was to get a non-refundable deposit of €300,000 and the purchase would only be finalised subject to the lands being rezoned within two years from agricultural use to development of industrial units and high end housing.

The State contends that in 2006, there was an extensive campaign with councillors to have the lands rezoned; that Forsey Jnr had a role by virtue of him being a Dungarvan Town Councillor; that he was in a position of influence; that he arranged meetings and that Mr Ryan made three payments to him during 2006 for him to exercise his influence.

John Deasy TD told the trial that Forsey Jnr, who was a driving instructor, was co-opted onto Dungarvan Town Council.

He said Mr Ryan approached him in a local bar in Dungarvan, saying he was having trouble with planners.

Mr Deasy said Mr Ryan told him he was going to create hundreds of jobs but when Mr Deasy asked him what industrial clients he had lined up to create these jobs, the information was not forthcoming.

The Fine Gael TD said he also later met with Forsey Jnr but he told him he would not support the initiative as there were no details about the proposed clients.

Paudie Coffey, the other Fine Gael TD for Waterford, said that in 2006, Tom Higgins, who was then a councillor, rang him and another councillor Liam Brazil and arranged that they meet with Mr Shanley to discuss the proposed development.

He said a three or four page document was presented at that meeting.

Evidence was also given by an executive planner with Waterford County Council, Aoife O'Flaherty, who said she recommended the proposed development be refused for a number of reasons.

Jenny Forsey told the trial that she was married to Forsey Jnr and that in 2006, they were struggling financially and did not have very much money.

She said the family of five went on holidays to Rome in August of that year, which surprised her and that he had a wallet of cash while on holiday.

She also said they purchased a lot of items for the house, including windows, carpets and a new fireplace.

The court heard they had remortgaged earlier that year, getting an extra €30,000 and that her husband later wanted to borrow €10,000 from her as he said he wanted to buy a new car for work.

They separated around October of that year.

She told the court that in December of that year that Forsey Jnr had said Michael Ryan was going to give him €10,000.

She admitted in court she did not know earlier her husband had been having a relationship with another woman.

Fergus Hopper, the former bank manager of AIB in Terenure, Dublin outlined how Mr Ryan had an account at the branch and he described how a payment had been made via the purchase of a draft in August 2006 and then a lodgement to an account with the name of Frederick Forsey.