Thursday 18 January 2018

Landlord denies sale of €150,000 Dublin property was a sham, court hears

A COMMERCIAL landlord has denied the sale of a Dublin property for €150,000 was a "sham" transaction intended to frustrate a bank's efforts to enforce a judgment for almost €7m against him.

John Meagher denied High Court judge Peter Kelly's suggestion that the February 2012 transaction on the Charlemont Street property was  "very fishy".


Mr Meagher insisted it was "not fishy at all" and had to be seen in the context of the property market being in "free fall" at the time.    Danske Bank, which is pursuing him over the judgment, didn't want the property, he said.


Rossa Fanning BL, for Danske, was questioning Mr Meagher yesterday about the transaction and other matters concerning his assets as part of the bank's efforts to get payment.


Mr Fanning said the bank had just received statements relating to Mr Meagher's accounts with Permanent TSB six minutes after the court sat and it may apply to further examine him after reviewing those and other documents sought.


When counsel asked Mr Meagher whether he had other bank accounts, he said he had accounts with four banks here and an account in Sri Lanka.


Under further questioning, he believed he had accounts in Romania, Turkey, Germany and Hungary when he was doing business there in the past.


In February 2013, Danske secured a €6.98m judgment against Mr Meagher at the Commercial Court over loans secured on properties at Charlemont Street. His appeal against the High Court's later refusal to set aside that judgment has yet to be heard by the Supreme Court.


Last July, after Mr Justice Kelly ordered Mr Meagher's arrest for alleged contempt of orders requiring him to provide a statement of affairs, he appeared voluntarily before the court saying he had been based abroad and was unaware of the proceedings until a friend rang him in India saying he was "all over the papers".


He previously said Dublin City Council's decision in 2012 to exercise a break clause in its lease for two properties on Charlemont Street, where hostels operated, materially contributed to his inability to make repayments on loans as they fell due.


Yesterday, Mr Fanning suggested the circumstances surrounding the sale by Mr Meagher for €150,000 of a property at Charlemont Street, including a sale document referring to sale of the freehold when Mr Meagher did not own that, and his apparent knowledge of the purchaser, indicated the transaction was "grossly irregular" and designed to ensure the bank did not get the property.


Mr Meagher denied that and also denied having any arrangement with the purchaser to reacquire the property later. When Mr Fanning said documents dated after the February 2012 sale suggested Mr Meagher was to continue to be paid rent for the property despite selling it, he said that was a short term arrangement. 


He was not sure if he got all of the €150,000 purchase price in cash over a period. He was under desperate financial pressure at the time and trying to get a loan from the bank to renovate the hostel properties on Charlemont Street but the bank refused, he said.


When he had bought the property some years earlier, he was told there was a problem with the title but thought he could deal with that later, he added. The bank knew there was a problem with the title and had told him to "get rid of it at any price".


In response to other questions, Mr Meagher said he had had a good relationship with Danske's predecessor, National Irish Bank, and had banked with it since 1981.


He always acted as a landlord who sublet hostels and believed he only controlled a company that operated hostels on Charlemont Street for about a year until 2010, he added.

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