The trial of a businessman accused of making corrupt payments to a then-politician in 2006 has heard how he told gardaí the money was intended as a loan.
Michael Ryan, 60, of The Sweepstakes, Ballsbridge, Dublin, has pleaded not guilty to three charges of making corrupt payments of €80,000 to former Fine Gael councillor Fred Forsey Jnr.
The payments are alleged to have been a reward or inducement for Forsey Jnr to use his position to support the rezoning of land which Mr Ryan wanted to use for industrial and residential development outside Dungarvan.
Retired garda superintendent Tom O’Grady told Waterford Circuit Court that he took a voluntary statement from Mr Ryan in June of 2008, the day after Mr Ryan contacted him by telephone to say he wanted to talk to him about an ongoing investigation into the land at Ballygagin, Dungarvan.
Mr Ryan told gardai in his 2008 statement that Forsey Jnr contacted him in August of 2006, by phone, and said he was buying two properties in Dungarvan, with a view to selling them on.
Forsey Jnr asked him Mr Ryan for a loan of €70,000 - to be paid in one payment of €60,000 and another of €10,000.
He got his solicitor to draw up a loan agreement and arranged to have the payments made to Forsey Jnr’s account.
Forsey Jnr later contacted him in December of 2006 and said he needed a loan of €10,000 for work on a house. Mr Ryan agreed and told him to repay the money the following April.
Mr Ryan told gardaí the money had “nothing to do” with the land outside Dungarvan, and that he was “anxious” to get the money back from Forsey Jnr, but never did.
Retired county manager Ray O’Dwyer said he was aware in 2006 that “there was significant pressure put on the elected representatives around the application” for planning permission for the land.
Current county manager and then director of planning Denis McCarthy said that, in 2008, most of the land at Ballygagin was in a block which the county councillors voted, by majority, to rezone in favour of industrial use.
However, the Department of the Environment had made a submission advising against the rezoning before the councillors voted and, as a result, the council officials recommended against the rezoning. The then-minister, John Gormley, subsequently vetoed the move.
The developers, a partnership which included Mr Ryan, had already been refused permission in October of 2006 for industrial units and “executive” residential units, Mr McCarthy said.
Fine Gael county councillor Lola O’Sullivan said she was asked by Forsey Jnr in 2006 to attend a meeting in Tramore with the developers of the land and thought that all the other councillors from the area would be present.
But, in the event, the only other councillors present were Tom Higgins from Dungarvan and Forsey Jnr.