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Priory Hall builder Tom McFeely plans UK property comeback


Priory Hall developer Tom McFeely. Photo: David Conachy

Priory Hall developer Tom McFeely. Photo: David Conachy

Priory Hall developer Tom McFeely. Photo: David Conachy

THE rogue developer responsible for the firetrap Priory Hall development has escaped investigation over claims that he salted away €3.75m in rents from a London apartment complex that should have gone towards his debts, the Sunday Independent has learned.

Tom McFeely is preparing his return to property development in the UK when he exits bankruptcy in July and walks away from his multi-million euro debts.

His debts include €60m owed to Bank of Ireland, which he borrowed through one of his Northern Ireland companies to build an apartment block in London.

The bank appointed a receiver to the company, Inis Developments, which is now in voluntary liquidation. The receiver has been fighting to get back the €3.75m rent roll from the property - Athena Court - that was channelled through an Isle of Man registered company linked to McFeely and his brother.

The brothers were criticised by a judge in a UK court case taken by the receiver who described the lease agreement that facilitated the movement of the rent as a "sham" and "void". The receiver said a report on the conduct of the directors of the company was sent to Northern Ireland's Department of Enterprise but the Department said it won't be taking any action against them. Despite ongoing investigations, the receiver failed to find any other assets.

"It is uncertain at this stage what, if any amounts, will be recovered," the report said. It says the Isle of Man registered company has refused to surrender the rent money and the receiver has petitioned to have that company wound up.

McFeely has denied that he received any money from the London apartment block. The convicted IRA hunger striker, who turned to building on his release from prison, has been based in an apartment in London where he has been reportedly trying to raise funds for his return to the property business.

Sources have said that he was involved with his brothers in staging a comeback. It has also been reported that he has been pitching himself abroad among investors as an agent for small Irish developers.

He was declared bankrupt in Ireland 2012 after his attempts to go bankrupt in the UK were thrown out of court. Theresa McGuinness, who bought a faulty house from him in Dublin, had petitioned for his bankruptcy after he failed to pay her a €100,000 judgement award that she had secured in the courts.

Ultimately the taxpayer will pick up the most of the €230m bill for McFeely's failed developments and negligent building practices.

Taxpayers will pay most of the €27m bill for the repairing Priory Hall, the death trap apartment complex in North Dublin from which scores of families were evacuated and left homeless for two years. He also owes around €500,000 to the Revenue Commissioners, while his companies owe debts of around €200m to Nama.

The state agency evicted McFeely and his wife, Nina Kessler, from their Ailesbury Road home over a debt of more than €9.5m plus interest secured against the property. Nama sold the house last year for €2.6m. As McFeely is bankrupt, Nama pursued his wife for the loan balance and recently secured an €8m judgement against her in the High Court.

In his bankruptcy file, McFeely claimed he owned 16 properties which were owned by banks or were in Nama. These include the Plaza Hotel and the Square Shopping Centre in Tallaght, houses and sites in Finglas, Balrothery, Thomas Street, Holles Street and North King Street in Dublin. He bought a villa in the Algarve in Portugal with his wife, but claimed he "disposed" of it in 2010.

Last year, €200,000 in cash was found in his old Ailesbury Road home by builders working on the property. The money was seized by the Criminal Assets Bureau, and later given to his bankruptcy supervisor to be distributed to his creditors.

Sunday Independent