A CONTROVERSIAL businessman, who is locked in an ongoing battle with a local authority, was convicted and fined in a midlands court yesterday over breaches of company law.
Noel O'Gara (64) of Ballinahown Court, Ballinahown, Co Offaly, faced a special sitting of Athlone District Court on charges of auditing four companies while not being qualified to do so.
The businessman, who is involved in a row with Dublin City Council over Dartmouth Square in south Dublin, defended himself in the case which was taken by the Director of Corporate Enforcement.
He said the case was "vindictive and malicious" and he had been targeted because of his high-profile involvement with the Dartmouth Square controversy. Mr O'Gara shot to national prominence when he purchased Dartmouth Square in Dublin 6 in 2005, for a figure believed to be less than €10,000.
He had noticed that the lease on the land had expired. Upon purchasing the property, he padlocked the entrance gates, causing uproar among locals who used the park as a public amenity. He remains the owner of the square despite efforts by Dublin City Council to acquire it by Compulsory Purchase Order (CPO).
Three of the companies he was accused of auditing -- Ballinahown Development Company, Granite Tiles Ltd, and O'Gara Estates Limited -- are registered to his address.
The fourth company -- Sportico Sportswear Ltd -- has its registered office at 32 Pearse Square, Dublin 2.
Mr O'Gara claimed the case wouldn't have been brought if he had been aware the companies were exempt from audit.
He said that for 20 years he had been filing his accounts with the Companies Office in Parnell Square, Dublin, and he felt that the checkers who received his accounts should have pointed out to him that, as a director of the companies, he could not audit them also.
He said that since 1973, he was self-employed and was not practising as an accountant except to prepare accounts for his own companies and file returns. For the past three years he has been filing his accounts, with an audit exemption, without any problems.
Kevin Creedon, officer with the Director of Corporate Enforcement, said the offence committed had been in the auditing of the accounts.
The court accepted that there hadn't been any fraud involved.
The judge imposed fines totalling €3,200 on the accused and ordered him to pay €1,500 costs. Mr O'Gara intends to appeal the case.