Tuesday 27 September 2016

Accountant forged emails to make it look like farming brothers consented to €3.6m judgement against them

Tim Healy

Published 19/06/2015 | 18:20

Scales of justice
Scales of justice

AN accountant forged emails to make it look like three brothers involved in construction and farming had consented to a €3.6m judgment against them for fees allegedly owed to the accountant, the High Court ruled.

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Paschal Bergin, Corrig Road, Sandyford, Dublin, is however entitled to certain monies for his work carried out on behalf of brothers Samuel and Mervyn Walsh, originally from Wexford but now living in France and Kenya, Mr Justice Gerard Hogan said. 

The case had also been brought against a third brother, George Walsh, who now lives with Samuel at the €3.5m Chateau Meillard, on 1,000 acres, in central France.

The brothers had the judgment, which was entered in default against them, set aside by the High Court in 2011.

Mr Justice Hogan ruled Friday (June 19)  Mr Bergin is entitled to certain sums for his work and the exact amount will be quantified when the case returns next month.

The case, described by the judge as "enormously complex", lasted 64 days.

Among the issues it dealt with were fees for an attempt to transfer gold bullion from Kenya to Switzerland, for work related to a number of house building projects in Ireland, for efforts to acquire tax residency status in Monaco for Samuel and Mervyn, and for commission on work on acquiring Chateau Meillard. 

Mr Bergin claimed he carried out the work as a consultant and "family confidant"  between 2003 and 2009 having originally got involved with them when he successfully renegotiated the buying back of family lands owned by Samuel at Ballynahown, Kilmuckridge, Wexford, which a bank was selling to pay a debt. 

The brothers strongly disputed his claims.

There were a number of land acquisitions and development projects by the Walsh's over the six years which Mr Bergin claimed he was involved with them.

One involved a plan to transfer gold bullion from a bonded warehouse in Nairobi, Kenya, where Mervyn and George had extensive interests, including the sale of coffee to France. 

Mr Justice Hogan said Mervyn and George were convinced "significant sums" could be realised if the bullion was transferred to Switzerland.  Mr Bergin, who had contacts in the business, said he travelled to Switzerland, to have its purity checked. 

However the project did not proceed principally because a satisfactory certificate of origin was not forthcoming, the judge said.

Mr Justice Hogan said when the relationship between Mr Bergin and the brothers "sundered" in 2009, he (Bergin) resorted to fabricating documents to get judgment against them.

An email in December 2009 stating the brothers effectively accepted the €3.6m debt to Mr Bergin had been forged by the accountant, the judge said.

He was satisfied Mr Bergin obtained George Walsh's password, accessed his email account and fabricated material which gave the appearance the brothers were consenting to judgment.

Mr Bergin had also separately fabricated a document stating there was a 2006 agreement between him and the brothers, he said.

There was no doubt these were "serious and disturbing findings", he said.

It was likely Mr Bergin was driven to it in the belief the brothers had "somehow wriggled free" from commitments to pay him, he said.

While the judge deplored his endeavours to "deceive the court by resorting to fraudulent emails", this cannot take from his legal right to damages for breach of contract.

He found Mr Bergin was entitled to a three per cent commission for his work on the acquisition of housing development sites at the Moyne in Enniscorthy, Wexford, and at Kilminchy, Portlaoise.

He was also entitled to judgment for €80,000 against Mervyn arising out of a €120,000 loan Mr Bergin took out from Tramore Credit Union for the acquisition of a development site in Ballyhogue, Enniscorthy.

He was entitled to recover €75,000 for his work in introducing Mervyn Walsh to banking authorities in Monaco for the purpose of successfully setting up tax residency status there for him.  He was entitled to €25,000 for a similar introduction for Samuel who did not get such a status.

He was not entitled to payments in relation to a number of transactions including a "finder's fee" of €12,000 he claimed for the acquisition of the Chateau Meillard and two other French properties at Saint-Fargeau and Angers.

He was entitled to commission of two per cent, rather than three per cent, against George and Samuel Walsh for his work on the acquisition of the chateau at a price of €3.5m.

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