Sunday 22 October 2017

Waterworld tax row 'cost €30m in lost deals'

Tom Lyons

JOHN Moriarty, a director of Dublin Waterworld Ltd (DWL), ex-operator of the National Aquatic Centre, has accused the State agency behind the swimming centre of scuppering five different business deals, costing his company €30m.

In a High Court affidavit, Moriarty outlines how he believes the predecessor to the National Sports Campus Development Authority tried to destroy him by erroneously pursuing DWL for a decade over a €10m Vat bill relating to the sports centre.

In an epic legal battle, the Kerry businessman was forced to spend millions on legal fees to prove in the Supreme Court that the sports authority was wrong to pursue DWL for the bill relating to former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern's former pet project. Moriarty faced being struck off as a director and financial ruin if he did not win the case.

Moriarty said the "threat of restrictive actions" damaged him and his fellow directors of DWL in two ways. "Firstly, the directors (mindful of their fiduciary duties) to the company took the decision that they could not actively pursue certain projects because of this impending threat (of losing the case)," his affidavit states.

"Secondly," he added, "the threat impacted on the ability to pursue projects because external third parties were not prepared to do business with it and undermined its ability to obtain finance for such projects."

Moriarty said there were five different business deals he was looking at between 2002 and 2005 that he alleged were damaged by the issue. He said DWL was forced to withdraw from developing a leisure pool in Southport, England in 2005 because of "threatened restriction actions". He said plans to build an apartment project in Spain which might have made a profit of €9.3m had to be scotched because his bankers refused to support him because of the "VAT issue".

Moriarty said a plan to build a swimming pool in Prague had to be scrapped, causing his firm to miss out on a profit of €6.8m and a plan to build a resort in Bulgaria which might have made €14.7m also proved impossible because "financing became unrealistic due to the issues surrounding the VAT issue".

The NSCDA rejects DWL/Moriarty's claims and plans to defend the case, running up yet another legal bill. The decision to wrongly pursue DWL/Moriarty for the VAT bill has been criticised by the Supreme Court, the Public Accounts Committee and the Comptroller and Auditor General, among others.

Irish Independent

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