| 12.5°C Belfast

Businessman denies selling €150,000 debt to Limerick crime gang

An Irish businessman denied yesterday he sold on a €150,000 debt owed to him by a builder who was later allegedly advised by gardai that a criminal had been employed to collect it.

Tony Woods, the managing director of Midland Steel, told the High Court he neither employed nor sold the debt owed by Galway builder James Clancy to well-known Limerick criminals.

The court last week subpoenaed Mr Woods to appear before it after a judge was told gardai had received information that a "well-known criminal family" had engaged a person in Limerick to collect the debt from Mr Clancy.

Yesterday, Mr Woods said he was "gutted and destroyed" after allegations appeared in the media that he had engaged with criminals to recover the debt. He made no efforts to recover the money he is owed by Mr Clancy, he said.

Mr Justice Brian McGovern yesterday instructed that papers in the case be sent to the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP).

The case arises out of continuing efforts by ACC Asset Finance to enforce a €3.29m judgment order obtained by it in April 2009 against Mr Clancy, Furbo, Co Galway.

The De Lage Landen Ireland Company, trading as ACC Asset Finance, had secured the judgment over unpaid loans for a machine used for the manufacture of prefabricated polystyrene houses.

ACC Asset Finance has been attempting for some time to secure information about assets of Mr Clancy in the United Arab Emirates and elsewhere but has alleged he has failed to provide all the information sought.

Mr Clancy was jailed last April for two weeks for contempt of court orders in that regard and Mr Justice McGovern has warned him he faces another more substantial period in prison unless the court orders are complied with.

In his evidence yesterday, Mr Woods said he gave a personal loan of €150,000 in April 2009 to secure the release of Mr Clancy's equipment held in Abu Dhabi. Once that equipment was released, to another company, he would recover his money.

He said he primarily dealt with a man called Stephen Graham, previously described as Mr Clancy's agent in the United Arab Emirates. Mr Clancy, the court previously heard, had spent some €4.8m on equipment as part of an intended joint-venture building project.

However, after the money was loaned, the proposed building project never materialised. He said he was assured by Mr Graham that his money would be returned, but to date was not repaid.

Mr Woods said the allegations made against him in the proceedings had had a massive affect on both his personal and business reputation.

Mr Justice McGovern said he was directing that the matter be referred to the DPP.

In relation to Mr Clancy, the judge said that he was putting the matter back to October saying he wanted to consider whether he should be jailed for contempt.

He was "not at all satisfied" that Mr Clancy was making "any reasonable effort" to provide the information about the whereabouts of the machinery, he said.

Irish Independent

Belfast Telegraph