Monday 21 October 2019

Businessman who sourced ponies on Done Deal 'flabbergasted' when they were delivered, court hears

A skewbald pony. Stock photo
A skewbald pony. Stock photo

Marese McDonagh

AN Irish businessman told a court he was flabbergasted when two ponies were delivered to his Majorca home in 2012 as he had never seen one of them before.

Sean Ewing, who a jury heard was formerly chairman of a major global company worth $1bn, said he was subjected to “betrayal and lies” after agreeing to buy two ponies off a well known Sligo horseman.

He had been expecting a skewbald pony called Buddy but instead got a skewbald called Spot, Sligo Circuit Court heard.

Michael Kearins, with an address at Knockbeg, Collooney, Co Sligo, but who is currently living in the US, has pleaded not guilty to a charge of deception between 24 August 2012 and 19 October 2012.

His solicitor Tom MacSharry told an earlier court sitting that he was a member of the Ireland Showjumping Federation.

Mr Ewing said it would be “just preposterous” to suggest that he had  agreed to take a pony similar to the one he had negotiated to buy. He and his wife had travelled around  Ireland searching for a pony with the right temperament because the safety of their children was their priority. He told the court that he agreed to purchase two ponies from Mr Kearins, a grey Connemara mare called Teddy, and Buddy.

Mr  Ewing, who is originally from Donegal, told the court he made contact with the accused after seeing an advert in Done Deal, as he was looking for a pony for his daughters then aged 10 and eight.

On the second day of the trial he told a jury of eight men and four women that Buddy was a much fitter, more athletic animal who was like an athlete in training,  while Spot was like an older person who was frail. Their colouring was similar. When the two ponies arrived in Majorca where he was living with his family in 2012, he said Teddy  was lame and Spot was ill.

The court was shown footage of Mr Ewing’s wife  and daughter riding Buddy when they went to see him at an outdoor arena in Claremorris, CoMmayo. He said they had seen the pony three times before agreeing to buy.

Judge Francis Comerford was told that an agreement was reached to buy two ponies for €20,000.

It was agreed that a deposit of €10,000 would be paid from a family trust fund, with the balance to be paid when the ponies arrived in Majorca.

However, the court heard that when Mr Ewing was away on business his wife got an email from a haulage company saying it was leaving Sligo with just one pony and that her husband was liable for the transportation costs, which she said was not in line with the agreement. She told them to go back with the pony.

Subsequently two ponies were sent to Majorca - Teddy, and a skewbald, identified in a passport as Spot.

Defence counsel Patrick O’Sullivan told the court that there was no dispute about the fact that Spot was not the pony the Ewings had seen in Ireland.

Mr O’Sullivan told the jury that Michael Kearins will tell the court that Buddy was owned by another man Felix Burke who decided that because of the long delay in negotiations that he no longer wanted to sell the animal. Mr Kearins would also say that he had a conversation with Mrs Ewing about this and agreed with her that he would source another pony which would be suitable for children.

Even though he had a number of ponies of his own he would tell the court that he bought another skewbald, Spot, for the Ewings after seeing it being ridden by an eight year old.

Terri Ewing said this suggestion was “ridiculous,  ludicrous and insane”. The conversation never took place. She said she had travelled all over Ireland with her husband looking for a pony with the right temperament because safety was her priority when buying a pony for her children. She said she would never entertain buying a pony she had not seen.

She said Spot was very ill when he arrived and had kicked her in the back of the legs. The other pony was lame and could not be used for showjumping so they were incurring livery and vets bills for both.

Under cross-examination by Mr O’Sullivan, Sean Ewing denied that he was arrested on suspicion of fraud in California.

Mr Ewing said that he was chairman of a large global company worth $1 billion and the issue was a books and records violation against an employee.

Mr Ewing said he was never indicted.  He said that as chairman he made an offer of $8 million which was accepted by investigators in 2016.

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