Wexford transport dynasty awarded €15m after Jersey fraud
The family behind Wexford-based Nolan Transport has been awarded almost €15m by a Jersey court after they fell victim to fraud when they invested in a raft of investments sold by a businessman.
The court described Irishman Gerard Walsh, who induced the Nolan family to invest in the schemes, as a "fraudster" and noted his own business empire collapsed in 2009.
One company which Mr Walsh was behind, Arkaga, at one time controlled Cork City FC.
Between 2005 and 2006, the Nolan family had stuffed a total of €15m into eight schemes presented to them by Mr Walsh as investment opportunities in an array of assets including German nursing homes, a ferry company, a TV production firm, and IT businesses.
But the investments were all destined to fail badly.
The judgment in the Nolans' favour has been secured against Jersey firm Minerva Trust, which was deemed liable for handling the administrative affairs of a complicated structure of companies known as the Buchanan Group, which was ultimately controlled by Mr Walsh.
Minerva Trust inherited the handling of those affairs when it merged with another company called PTCL, in 2007.
The family argued that Minerva Trust, in that it inherited PTCL's liabilities, had dishonestly assisted Mr Walsh in breach of the trusts arising from their investments by complying with Mr Walsh's instructions to "pay away" the money which they had transferred on unrelated expenditure, including expenditure for Mr Walsh's personal benefit.
The Nolans had previously attempted to sue Mr Walsh and his firms through the English courts, but efforts to obtain redress from him or his firms proved unsuccessful.
Mr Walsh, who did not give evidence at the Jersey court, had presented himself as a successful businessman.
However, all along, he was duping the family. Thirteen siblings were plaintiffs in the Jersey legal action.
Over the course of an 18 -month business relationship with the Nolans, the court determined that Mr Walsh consistently delayed providing them with crucial documentation. He also maintained that investments had soared in value when they had not.
"By 2005 at the latest Mr Walsh, was, or had become, a fraudster," the court said.
By autumn 2006, the relationship between the Nolans and Mr Walsh was souring, with the family having serious concerns about its investments.
But in June 2007, Mr Walsh's offer of €43m to the Nolan family as a final settlement for all their investments was accepted.
"We have no doubt that Mr Walsh knew at the time that he did not have €43m, or anything close to that sum, to pay the Nolans," noted the court.
By September 2007, Mr Walsh's Buchanan Group of companies had been placed on an internal watch list by the Minerva group.
Analysis: Family stung by deception
Wexford's Nolan Transport is considered one of Ireland's business success stories.
But Gerard Walsh was astute at the arts of deception and deflection.
The family, whose business has an annual turnover of around €70m, was unwittingly lured with promises of generous investment returns.
Joan Nolan had been in charge of negotiating family investments.
"She was clearly out of her depth in the world of private equity investment and we have no doubt that Mr Walsh deliberately took advantage of her comparative youth and inexperience to extract from the Nolan family the monies which the family invested with him," the court said.
Last year, Nolan Transport was fined €1m after it pleaded guilty to safety breaches when one of its trucks shed its load in Co Kilkenny. Two women were killed.
In 2011, the firm was refused a licence to operate in Wales after its drivers and vehicles notched up over 4,000 breaches of traffic and vehicle safety legislation.