Wednesday 22 November 2017

Former 'Entrepreneur of the Year' claims row with bank has put jobs at risk

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Tim Healy

A ROW between a Galway-based businessman and Ulster Bank has put "jobs at risk", it has been claimed in the High Court.

Former "Entrepreneur of the Year", John Flaherty, has brought proceedings claiming the bank wrongly put a charge on four houses which, he says, one of his firm's needs to sell in order to complete the purchase of other lands.

Mr Flaherty, is president and CEO of the C&F Group, headquartered at Athenry, Co Galway, and employs people 400 people locally and hundreds more worldwide.

The group provides manufacturing services to the IT, motor and refrigeration industries.  It also makes wind turbines and has facilities in China, the US, Germany and the UK.

Mr Flaherty seeks an injunction compelling Ulster Bank to remove a charge over property at Woodfield Tuam, Co Galway.

The bank opposes the application.

Mr Flaherty of Casla, Athenry, says the property is not subject to a charge as some €2.4m was paid for it more than a decade ago.

He said he serviced sites on the land which were sold on to various builders. He also constructed a number of houses on the land for his own use.

Due to the recession he was unable to sell the last 4 remaining houses on the site.

Last October, he secured buyers for the properties, but discovered that Ulster Bank has a put charge over the houses.

Mr Flaherty claims the bank does not hold any charge over the houses, and through his solicitor, Owen Swaine, wrote to the bank requesting it to vacate the charge.

While the bank said it would investigate the matter it has not removed the charge.

Mr Flaherty says there is an urgency to the matter as he needs the proceeds from the sale of the houses to complete the purchase of 70 acres of land at another location.

The matter was mentioned before Mr Justice Paul Gilligan who was told that, unknown to Mr Flaherty, the lands at the centre of the dispute have been put up as security for borrowings made by a third party, who sold the site to Mr Flaherty .

Michael O'Connor BL, for Mr Flaherty, said his client purchased the Tuam lands from a third party for a sum of €2.4m.

The land was then developed as housing before being sold off.

Counsel said it was then agreed the title of the lands would remained in the name of the third party but Mr Flaherty was the beneficial owner of the land.

Any failure to complete a deal to sell the houses would leave Mr Flaherty open to other litigation and he will lose a deposit he has already paid, counsel said.

If his client was to lose out,  a threat to the employment Mr Falherty provides cannot be ruled out.

"Jobs could be put at risk," counsel said.

Mr Flaherty believes the charge asserted by Ulster Bank is "a mistake."

The case was adjourned to next month.

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