Thursday 23 November 2017

Farmer to pay €5.5m for false claims in land deal

Aoife Finneran

A FARMER who made false claims to a quarry company over the sale of lands has been ordered to pay €5.5m in damages.

Michael McGuinness, of Hilltown, Bellewstown, Co Meath, must pay the sum to Keegan Quarries Ltd (KQL), of Trammon, Rathmolyon, Co Meath, along with an additional sum to be assessed later.

Ms Justice Mary Finlay Geoghegan also overturned a transfer in July 2010 of lands and property by Mr McGuinness to his wife Marie.

The judge found that it was done with fraudulent intent in order to prevent KQL from recovering any judgment obtained against him.

In January 2007, Mr McGuinness sold 30 acres of his 365-acre lands at Hilltown to KQL for €7m. KQL claimed Mr McGuinness falsely said that the lands had been lawfully registered for quarrying.

In a separate case last year brought by local residents against KQL, the High Court made orders halting use of the Hilltown lands as a quarry after finding that that use was unauthorised development.

KQL then brought an action against Mr McGuinness, alleging deceit and misrepresentation by him over the use of lands. The total damages sought were about €10m. Marie McGuinness was joined to the case in relation to the property transfers.

The company claimed it would not have purchased the lands if it had known that quarrying constituted unauthorised development. It also claimed the court order restraining quarrying dramatically dec- reased the value of the lands.

Ms Justice Finlay Geoghegan noted KQL began quarrying the lands in spring 2007. The High Court action arose due to a significant dispute as to whether the company's operations complied with planning conditions.

The judge found Mr McGuinness had falsely claimed that the Hilltown lands in question had been operated as a quarry before 1964, which would have exempted them from planning permission, when this was not the case.

Ms Justice Finlay Geoghegan also found Mr McGuinness made false representations to Meath County Council about pre-1964 operation of the quarry. She said KQL was entitled to recover the full €7m purchase price, less some €1.5m representing the 2007 market value of the 30 acres without the benefit of the pre-1964 quarry use.

KQL is also entitled to stamp duty, legal and other costs to be determined later.

Irish Independent

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