Monday 18 December 2017

Harry Crosbie: NAMA told me to turn down OBE from Queen

British Ambassador Dominick Chilcott presents Harry Crosbie with his honorary OBE in Dublin in 2012. Photo: Arthur Carron/Collins
British Ambassador Dominick Chilcott presents Harry Crosbie with his honorary OBE in Dublin in 2012. Photo: Arthur Carron/Collins

Dearbhail McDonald, Legal Editor

BUSINESSMAN Harry Crosbie has claimed that NAMA "told" him not to accept an honorary OBE from Queen Elizabeth II.

The developer says that he was warned by an official that he would be made to "bend the knee" to the State agency instead.

Mr Crosbie is locked in a bitter €77m debt dispute with NAMA following a breakdown in relations between the entrepreneur and Ireland's tough toxic loans agency.

In court documents seen by the Irish Independent he claims that a former case manager who "relished his new-found power over me" told the property magnate that he would make him (Crosbie) "bend the knee".

The man who transformed Dublin's Docklands with the O2 Arena and the Grand Canal Theatre was awarded an honorary OBE in December 2012 in recognition of his services to cultural relations between Ireland and England.

He was also involved in the organisation of the queen's visit to Ireland in 2011, including a concert held in her honour at the National Conference Centre in Dublin.

But Mr Crosbie, who has vowed to fight to regain control of The Grand Canal Theatre, has accused NAMA of resenting his public profile and former role on the board of the proposed new children's hospital.

The businessman has claimed in an affidavit that Paul Hennigan, a former senior NAMA case manager who has since left the agency, told him that he should not get involved in the queen's visit to Ireland or accept the OBE.

"He [Mr Hennigan] told me that he would see to it that I was subjected to damaging publicity if I did do," said Mr Crosbie in a lengthy statement contesting NAMA's debt action which, he claims, is "unconscionable".

The High Court has reserved judgment on a decision whether or not to allow Mr Crosbie's defence to the debt action to proceed to a full hearing.

NAMA is seeking instant (summary) recovery of the loans, claiming it had no option to enforce the massive personal debts because of Mr Crosbie's "lack of candour".

On Wednesday, Senior Counsel Paul Sreenan, representing NAMA, told High Court judge Mr Justice David Keane that Mr Crosbie's allegations were "scurrilous"; utterly irrelevant, quite non-specific in nature and raised with the intention of smearing Mr Hennigan's name.

And last night the agency told the Irish Independent that the allegations, which have appeared in Mr Crosbie's affidavits, were "emphatically rebutted" by NAMA's counsel.

In a March 2011 letter to John Mulcahy, former NAMA board member and Head of Asset Management, Mr Crosbie complained "Mr Hennigan believes himself to be the caped crusader and we are the evil doers". But NAMA has refuted the allegations and says its conduct with Mr Crosbie was at all times civil.

Mr Crosbie, whose total NAMA debts exceed €420m, stands accused by the agency of failing to disclose substantial assets when first asked to do so as well as failing to disclose significant cash payments to family members.

The developer has robustly defended the allegations, which include claims by NAMA that he misappropriated some €1.5m in dividends from a company charged in favour of NAMA.

And he has counter-claimed that NAMA is trying to bankrupt him after it, he claims, reneged on an August 2012 agreement between him and the agency. Mr Crosbie says the agreement would leave him in a position to avoid any further legal enforcement action by NAMA against him personally, including personal bankruptcy.

Mr Crosbie last night told the Irish Independent that it is "a big deal" for him to try and regain The Grand Canal Theatre, now known as the Bord Gais Energy Theatre.

The full breakdown in relations between NAMA and Mr Crosbie is laid bare in a series of court affidavits and exhibits presented to the High Court.

In a letter to Mr Crosbie dated August 3, 2012, NAMA said the developer had "a history of withholding information", reminding him that it was a criminal offence to provide false or inaccurate information to it.

Mr Crosbie has counterclaimed that he was "frightened and concerned" about his family amid claims that the agency had acted in a "heavy-handed and unjustified" manner towards the Crosbie family.

A ruling on the summary judgment application is expected within weeks.

Irish Independent

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