The Public Prosecution Service is currently considering if it will bring a Northern Ireland property tycoon before the criminal courts for his alleged role in a multi-million pound holiday home scam that saw a large number of trusting families lose tens of thousands of pounds.
Following a major police investigation lasting more than two years and involving PSNI officers and the Turkish police, detectives from the PSNI’s Serious Crime Branch have handed over a file of evidence against Bellaghy businessman Kevin O’Kane to the PPS for consideration.
The PPS is now to review the file and decide if there is enough available evidence to prosecute Mr O’Kane for his alleged fraudulent property dealings in Turkey, cheating more than 80 people out of their dream holiday home on the Aegean coast.
The alleged Golden Beach property fraud saw a large number of families handing over substantial sums of cash for holiday villas in Turkey that they later discovered they did not own. Mr O’Kane’s Ulster property firm, Anka, had been involved in sales of villas and apartments in Turkey worth around £4.5m.
However, people who handed over up to £80,000 for a property have claimed that they later discovered the deeds they received were fake. The 53-year-old has denied any involvement in the alleged scam, saying that he too is a victim.
However, as well as the criminal investigation into his involvement, around 80 people have launched a civil action against him in a bid to reclaim some of the money they lost.
In 2007, Belfast High Court agreed to freeze Mr O’Kane’s assets after civil action was launched. Mr O’Kane is an experienced businessman with an extensive property portfolio in Northern Ireland, as well as a fuel business. He also owns a luxury villa in Bodrum, Turkey, where in 2007 he and an ex-business partner got involved in the development and sale of holiday homes.
The Turkish properties were marketed as beach villas, under the slogan ‘A slice of paradise’. They were advertised as having guaranteed rental income.
Earlier this week Mr O’Kane launched a civil action against former world boxing champion Eamonn Loughran, who lost £75,000 in the alleged scam, for punching him. Mr O’Kane is suing the ex-world welterweight for damages after he was hit in the face by Mr Loughran during an argument over the alleged scam.
During a civil hearing in Coleraine County Court on Tuesday Mr O’Kane said he had to receive stitches to his face, lip and back of his head after he was punched by Mr Loughran, who confronted the property developer while in holiday in Turkey.
Mr Loughran has admitted “glancing” Mr O’Kane with his fist, but told the court it was in self-defence, claiming Mr O’Kane had tried to headbutt him during a heated argument about the alleged fraudulent property deal.