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The Celtic Tiger lord of the manor now struggling to keep his €8m mansion

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Businessman Oisin Fanning is fighting tooth and nail to keep at his lavish €8m Forenaghts House from the banks.

The former Celtic Tiger high-flier is the latest victim of the credit crunch after Anglo Irish Bank moved for possession of the Kildare mansion.

However, today the ex-telecom boss was not to be seen as his sprawling country pile.

It was confirmed to the High Court yesterday that Mr Fanning is opposing a bid by the Anglo-Irish Bank to take possession of his home because of an alleged failure to keep up payments on an €8m loan.

The bank has brought proceedings against Mr Fanning, seeking that he and his partner, Pearl Roche, deliver up possession of Forenaghts House.

Ms Justice Elizabeth Dunne will give her decision on the bank's application next Thursday.

The bank claims that Mr Fanning and Ms Roche have defaulted on a loan given to them in 2006 to enable Mr Fanning to buy €5m worth of shares in Smart Telecom and to allow the couple to refinance an existing €2.9m mortgage on Forenaghts.

The amount outstanding now stands at more than €8.6 million.

Mr Fanning claims he is not responsible for the repayments and that he was pressurised to take out the loan by businessman Brendan Murtagh, who took over Smart Telecom in 2006.

Mr Murtagh told Mr Fanning that, as CEO of the company, he would have to be seen to be investing in it as part of a €44m fundraising drive, Mr Fanning claims.

Mr Fanning argues this was really a loan to Mr Murtagh because he (Mr Murtagh) got Anglo Irish Bank to provide it despite the fact that two years earlier the same bank had told Mr Fanning that it would not be interested in funding him or his company.

Mr Fanning says he did not have the financial capacity to repay such a loan and Mr Murtagh, who knew this, agreed to make the repayments from Smart. Interest repayments were made by Smart between June 2006 and January 2007, Mr Fanning claims.

Mr Fanning and Mr Murtagh are currently involved in separate pending legal proceedings arising from the October 2006 buyout of Smart by Smart YuRoE Broadband, a company controlled by Mr Murtagh.

In its action, Anglo claims the loan to Mr Fanning and Ms Roche was secured on the basis of the bank having first legal claim over the Smart shares and over Forenaghts House. The bank is now seeking to exercise power of sale of Forenaghts.

In an affidavit, Anglo associate director Paul Corry says that without vacant possession of the house it would be "virtually unsaleable".

The bank also claims the house is not covered by the Family Home Protection Act 1976, Mr Corry says.

Mr Fanning, in an affidavit, claims that when he voiced his concern to Mr Murtagh about having to remortgage his home as part of the loan arrangement to buy shares, that he (Mr Murtagh) "reassured me and gave me his word that under no circumstances would my family home be at risk".

The loan was not advanced on the security of Forenaghts, Mr Fanning says, but on the basis of assurances from Mr Murtagh -- who had a long-standing business relationship with Anglo -- that it would be repaid.

Mr Fanning said he suggested to Anglo that the loan be split between the €2.9m for the home and the share purchase element but claims that all the bank offered was a six-month moratorium on the entire loan.

hnews@herald.ie


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