Former solicitor jailed for €8.8m land purchase fraud

Monday 07 April 2014 19.36
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John Duffy pleaded guilty to dishonestly obtaining a loan of money
John Duffy pleaded guilty to dishonestly obtaining a loan of money
Tony McAuliffe has been given a two-and-a-half year suspended sentence
Tony McAuliffe has been given a two-and-a-half year suspended sentence

A former solicitor has been jailed for two years for his role in an €8.8 million land purchase fraud.

His client has been given a two-and-a-half year suspended sentence.

John Duffy, 44, from Clogheen, Monasterevin in Co Kildare and his client Tony McAuliffe, 71, from French Furze, Co Kildare pleaded guilty to dishonestly obtaining a loan of the money from Investec Bank with the intention of making a gain in March 2007.

The land was to be sold on for €17m but the property business collapsed and the money could not be repaid.

The 55 acres in Co Offaly are now worth just €35,000.

Judge Leonie Reynolds criticised Investec saying if it had carried out the most rudimentary checks the fraud would have been exposed.

She also said the deal was indicative of the lax lending practices of the banking sector at the time. 

The case has been described as a lesson the country has learned in the madness of "get rich quick" before the property bubble burst.

McAuliffe is functionally illiterate but his solicitor Duffy created and prepared the contract as well as a letter saying he had a deposit of €7m, money he never had.

They stood to make a profit of €9m. Instead they lost the €9m they borrowed to buy land.

Judge Reynolds described Duffy's actions as an unacceptable abuse of his position as a solicitor and sentenced him to three years in prison, suspending the final year.

However, because of McAuliffe's exceptional personal circumstances she said she was taking the unusual step in such a case of suspending his two-and-a-half-year sentence.