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Cowen throws down gauntlet in €18,700 property fees claim

FORMER Taoiseach Brian Cowen is defending a claim for €18,700 against him by a UK property management company for fees it claims he owes on his investment property there. The claim is one of a number brought by the property management company against a consortium of Irish investors including Mr Cowen.

The Sunday Independent understands that Mr Cowen has recently filed a reply to the claim from the Adderstone Group for costs it says it incurred at Carr Mills, the Leeds apartment building in which the former Taoiseach shares an interest with a consortium of Irish 'buy-to-let' investors. Papers in the case are being considered by a judge at Newcastle County Court, and it is expected that he will make his intentions known this Thursday when the matter is due for listing.

It is open to the judge to make a decision based on consideration of the affidavits alone, or to direct that the case proceed to a full court hearing. Adderstone's claim for €18,700 plus costs arises from a long-running dispute between the company and the investors over the management of Carr Mills, which is used principally as accommodation for students at Leeds University.

Adderstone is arguing that that apartment building has been unlawfully sublet to the university, a claim denied by Mr Cowen and other co-investors.

According to them, they had "consent in principle" from Adderstone to sub-let their units to the university.

Repeated efforts by the Sunday Independent to contact Mr Cowen for further comment on the matter were unsuccessful. A spokesman for Adderstone declined to comment, other than to say that the matter was "at a sensitive stage".

Having successfully avoided public attention since his departure from the Taoiseach's office and political life, Mr Cowen will doubtless find the renewed publicity arising from his legal spat in the UK uncomfortable, regardless of its final outcome.

Adderstone's claim, which is being taken against both Mr Cowen and his wife, Mary, also throws the spotlight on the ex-Taoiseach's personal investments at a time when he served as Finance Minister.

Mr Cowen purchased the seven-bedroom apartment in Carr Mills in 2005 for €308,075, availing of a mortgage from AIB to do so.

The UK investment followed hot on the heels of his purchase in Dublin of an apartment at the Cammock building in Mount Brown, Kilmainham. According to records held at the Registry of Deeds, Mr Cowen acquired this property in July 2004, again with the assistance of a mortgage from AIB. An examination of historical prices suggests that he would have paid in the region of €280,000 for the two-bedroom property.

Mr Cowen's Kilmainham and Leeds investments were followed up in 2006 with his acquisition of a two-bed duplex apartment in the exclusive Castle Way development on Golden Lane off Aungier Street and adjacent to Dublin Castle.

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