Wednesday 11 December 2019

Liam Collins: 'Is it game over for Beades, after a decade of fighting?'

As his 60th birthday looms, Dublin property developer Jerry Beades could be finally running out of road, writes Liam Collins

Jerry Beades2...17/11/2015
Jerry Beades pictured leaving the Bridewell District Court yesterday(Tues) after he appeared before the Court.Pic: Collins Courts
Jerry Beades2...17/11/2015 Jerry Beades pictured leaving the Bridewell District Court yesterday(Tues) after he appeared before the Court.Pic: Collins Courts
Liam Collins

Liam Collins

After the courts found against him for the third time this year, over loans totalling more than €15m, someone who knows him well said of Jerry Beades: "He gives advice to everybody else and takes it from nobody."

Mr Beades has been obsessively fighting a raft of cases in the High and Supreme Courts over property debts for well over a decade - but this could mark the end of the road for the country's best known 'lay litigant' (someone who represents themselves in court).

The Supreme Court unanimously dismissed Mr Beades's appeal against a judgment in favour of Ulster Bank for more than €3m, and Mr Justice William McKechnie refused an application for a 'stay' pending a further appeal on the basis that he couldn't see any issue in the case in which European law arose.

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As founder of 'Friends of Banking' and the 'New Land League Ireland', Jerry Beades has proved ultra-energetic, troublesome and litigious around the Four Courts, as well as being an effective rabble-rouser at auctions and evictions since he ran into trouble with the banks before the property crash brought down most of Ireland's big developers in 2010.

As far back as April 2006, he picketed the headquarters of Rabobank (the new owners of Irish entity ACC) in the Dutch city of Utrecht, claiming a compensation and loan package from the bank for losing title documents to property he owned in Dublin.

Since then he has engaged in a byzantine series of court appeals against bank judgments and the State, picketed properties under threat of repossession or eviction, forced the cancellations of high-profile property auctions and lobbied politicians to protect those who cannot or will not repay loans.

He has also cannily enlisted the help of allies like the Independent TD Mattie McGrath, and old pals in Fianna Fail.

But none of his energy and confrontational nature can disguise the fact that he has managed to borrow vast amounts of money from a succession of banks including Bank of Scotland, Ulster Bank, Permanent TSB, KBC and ACC/Rabobank.

Some at least must rue the day that the man who boasts of being "the most experienced lay litigant in the country" was ever entertained when he came looking for loans for his construction and development business.

On May 24 2019, in the course of dealing with an appeal against a PTSB/Cheldon debt of €2,251,584 (with daily interest of €84.68 accruing) Judge Tony O'Connor said Mr Beades was "acting with apparent financial impunity in view of the extent of his indebtedness" adding, "this court will not allow its processes to be used by litigants for delaying the inevitable".

On July 29, he lost an appeal in the Supreme Court against a judgment for €9,684,987 by Bank of Scotland.

Last Monday, Ulster Bank enforced a judgment against him for €3,521,735 in a case that has been winding its way through the courts since the bank issued a demand in March, 2013, for repayment in full of a restructured debt agreed in 2010.

In its judgment the Supreme Court found that one of Mr Beades's grounds of appeal, that he was not legally represented in the original High Court hearing, just did not hold water.

"It is clear from the transcript of the hearing that the lack of legal representation did not disadvantage Mr Beades in any way. He took a full and active part in the process… he would not, I think, be in any way offended if I also said that, as a person he is not only familiar with procedure, but also with court advocacy; he has experience in both," said Judge McKechnie.

These setbacks come on top of KBC getting an order in the High Court to repossess properties in Richmond Ave, Fairview, and Little Mary Street, Dublin, on foot of an unpaid €2.1m loan taken out with IIB bank (now part of KBC) in 2008, Ms Justice Caroline Costello said in her judgment, reported on June 29 2018, she was satisfied no payment had been made on the loan for 10 years.

Although he always had a media profile as an active member of Bertie Ahern's coterie of supporters known as 'The Drumcondra Mafia' and his membership of the Fianna Fail national executive, Jerry Beades was never really in the front rank of developers. His biggest project was a large site at Richmond Ave in Fairview which was unfinished.

He also had a site for 48 apartments at Greencastle Road, Coolock. Other properties mortgaged for loans through various now defunct companies included houses on Richmond Road, Derrrynane Parade, Benedict's Gardens, Fairview Avenue, Buckingham Street and Beaver Street in Dublin city centre.

While many other high profile property developers, who along with the banks brought the country to its knees a decade ago, are back in business, the colourful Mr Beades appears stuck in a vicious circle of Four Courts litigation, although he also manages to find time to commute to Doha, where he is involved in construction as the city prepares for the 2022 World Cup.

Between times, he has waged an unprecedented high-profile legal campaign against the banks that once funded him and the judiciary who have given judgments against him. This has led inexorably to a series of acrimonious and personalised feuds, particularly with the current President of the High Court, Mr Peter Kelly. When Bank of Scotland was pursuing him for €12m in 2012, Judge Kelly gave a scathing indictment of the way the case was conducted in his court.

"Mr Beades appeared to have no hesitation in making allegations, including allegations of criminal wrong doing, against parties not before the court," said the judge.

"He persisted in those allegations despite evidence demonstrating that they were simply wrong. Many of these allegations had nothing to do with any substantive defence to the case which Mr Beades might have. He appeared to be of the view that he was at liberty to make such allegations of wrongdoing, not merely against the bank, but against non-parties to the case with little or nothing by way of evidence to support his wide-ranging criticism."

Jerry Beades retaliated in June 2016, by delaying for several hours the appointment of Judge Kelly, who was at Aras an Uachtarain awaiting his seal of office as President of the High Court.

That morning, Mr Beades launched a legal action against Ireland, the Attorney General, the Judicial Council Appointments Advisory Board and the Minister for Justice and Equality, claiming the Government failed to consider the relevant law before nominating Judge Kelly for the job.

Mr Justice Robert Haughton found that this case was brought for an "improper purpose" whose motivation was to damage the reputation of Mr Justice Kelly in particular and also that of Mr Justice Paul Gilligan and Ms Justice Maire Baker out of a "sense of grievance" held by Mr Beades.

Judge Haughton also criticised him for alerting the press "in the pursuit of publicity" and then attempting to read into the record "his allegations of unsuitability" against Mr Justice Kelly.

As his 60th birthday looms on December 22, Jerry Beades is finally running out of road on the legal route started with the aim of protecting his interest in numerous properties, but which now appears to have taken on a life of its own. With the glory days of political activism long gone, he is like an old-style patriarch railing against the system and bogged down in an endless legal process of defending and appealing judgments.

Coincidentally, Mr Beades's family home on upmarket Mount Prospect Ave, Clontarf, backs on to the home of Attorney General Seamus Woulfe and in the past he has also used 163 Richmond Avenue, Fairview, as his address. However, he now resides, according to company documents, at Stoneyford Ave, Lisburn, Co Antrim.

A familiar figure to many reporters (including this one) his first major publicity coup was to marshal resistance to an Allsop Space 'fire-sale' auction of properties seized by the banks in the Shelbourne Hotel in July, 2013. Hundreds of bargain-hunters were in the ballroom for the auction when Mr Beades approached the podium and asked if the auctioneers had "the goodwill of the owners" to sell their properties.

As the auction came to a halt and the protest degenerated into slogans, a number of TDs, including Mattie McGrath, intervened and it was called-off on 'health and safety grounds'.

But probably Jerry Beades's most famous intervention came during the long-running 'Battle of Gorse Hill' back in March 2015, when he and supporters from the New Land League gathered outside the opulent Killiney home of solicitor Brian O'Donnell and his wife Mary Pat to prevent bailiffs from Bank of Ireland seizing the house on foot of a reported €71m property debt.

"When it comes to protests and evictions I'm centre stage," he said, but for many people the appropriation of the Land League name, associated with Michael Davitt and Charles Stewart Parnell, to defend a patrician professional with a massive international property portfolio, seemed to stretch credulity to the limit.

This feeling was heightened when Mr Beades went on TV3 and described the O'Donnell mansion on the Vico Road, once valued at €20m, as "a bog standard" house.

Jerry Beades Concrete is his last remaining active company in Ireland and according to its accounts to December 2018 it has a deficit of €941,712 in shareholder funds, with €869,274 outstanding in the director's loan account.

It seems unlikely that creditor banks will ever see much of what they are owed when the litigation wheel of fortune eventually grinds to a halt. Even if they do get around to seizing and selling the various parcels of land and property around Dublin that they advanced vast sums of money to him for development, much of the value of these assets will have been swallowed up in interest bills and legal costs.

Will Jerry Beades mind last week's judgment or the mountain of debt he has piled up over the past decade?

He'll probably reply cheerily if you ask 'how are you doing?' with a smile and his standard response: "Sure, I'm still alive."

Sunday Independent

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