Tuesday 17 October 2017

Consultant admits money given to ex FG deputy mayor Fred Forsey was ‘’certainly questionable’’

Eimear Ni Bhraonain

A CONSULTANT linked to plans to develop farmland at the centre of a corrupt payments trial admitted money given to an ex-Fine Gael deputy mayor was "certainly questionable".

Fred Forsey Jnr (43), a former town councillor, of Coolagh Road, Dungarvan, Co Waterford, denies receiving a total of €80,000 in corrupt payments from a property developer in 2006.

Today, a consultant who worked on the project for lands outside of Dungarvan, appeared before Waterford Circuit Court.

Prosecuting, Noel Whelan, asked the witness: “Would it not, in your view, have been ethically questionable… to lend even €80,000 unsecured to the deputy mayor who otherwise had no credit worthiness?”

The consultant replied: “I would say (to the developer), think very carefully about what you’re doing… because there were tribunals about this at the time all over the country.”

The witness, who is not named for legal reasons, gave evidence of how the land project included an executive residential element. It was put to him by Mr Whelan that the reason the residential zoning was required was to make the site “more valuable” and it would have “significant tax implications” if executive homes were built on the site.

The consultant agreed that he had organised a “junket” for council officials and members to travel to Sweden to view a renewable energy project as an “educational exercise”. The trip -- planned with a private jet -- did not go ahead as the then Waterford County Manager Ray O’Dwyer did not think it was appropriate, the court heard.

The witness testified that rezoning the land from agricultural to industrial/residential use would have boosted its value by about “four times”. Earlier, the trial heard evidence that such a change could increase the land value by up to ten times.

“I am putting it to you that there was a very strong push on for this development,” Mr Whelan said, adding that the ethical standards around it were “loose”.

Before this witness took the stand, Fred Forsey continued to be cross-examined by the prosecution for a second day.

His ex-wife, Jenny Forsey, returned to the courtroom to sit in the public gallery for the first time since she gave evidence last week. His partner, Karen Morrissey, accompanied Mr Forsey to the trial but sat outside for most of the day.

Mr Forsey revealed before the jury yesterday that he was a “desperate man”. He also described his relief at getting tens of thousands of euro from a developer, saying it was like “a miracle”.

Prosecuting Denis Vaughan Buckley SC asked Mr Forsey he thought that receiving €80,000 from a developer would “not be seen as suspicious” by his council colleagues.

“No… I was having a lot of financial difficulties,” he said.

Mr Vaughan Buckley asked Mr Forsey if he ever paid the developer “back a cent to this day?” to which he replied, “no”.

The trial continues.

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