Couple may have to sell part of farm to pay debt to grain merchant

A couple may have part of their 1,600 acre farm sold to pay a €352,000 debt to a grain merchant by order of the High Court.

Jim and June Smith, tillage farmers from Portarlington, Co Laois, were sued by Quinns grain and agricultural merchants of Baltinglass, Co Wicklow.

Mr Justice David Keane granted an order to Quinns over the lands which means unless the couple pay the debt within a month, the property can be put up for sale and the court will later decide how the proceeds are to be distributed. The order does not affect their home which is on the lands and they are to be provided with a right-of-way to the house as part of the court order.

The case related to a 2010 summary judgment order against Mr Smith over a shortfall on his account with Quinns in 2009 following some five years of business between them.

By the time judgment was obtained against Mr Smith, the debt stood at €292,000, inclusive of interest.

In 2011, Mr Smith delivered €54,000 worth of grain to Quinns in part payment of the debt but no further monies were forthcoming.

File photo of generic farm

By February 2016, the debt, including €114,000 in accumulated interest, was €352,000.

The Laois Co Sheriff sought to execute the judgment but in April 2012, the sheriff reported no property could be found and seized to pay off the judgment.

Quinns believed Mr Smith continue to work his farm, growing cereals.

In August 2012, Quinns received an anonymous letter saying Mr Smith and his wife had set up a company called Nujmij and was delivering grain to the multi-national food company Glanbia.

Quinns obtained an injunction preventing the Smiths dissipating their assets and directing Glanbia to retain €65,000 due to the Smiths for the grain delivery.

Following a hearing, Mr Justice Keane ruled the transfer by Mr Smith of ownership of the grain to Nujmij, later delivered to Glanbia, was made with the intention to defraud Quinns as a creditor of Mr Smith.

He granted Quinns a declaration that the transfer of ownership was void.

In relation to the outstanding €352,000 judgment, he ordered an account be taken of any other or claims/encumbrances over their lands with the purpose of establishing a priority for each of those claims.

He granted an order for payment of the €352,000 within 28 days. Failing such payment, he ordered certain lands could be put up for sale.

Mr Smith told the court that the part of the lands over which is is the sole owner have been charged to a financial institution and the money due to it far exceeds the value of the land concerned.

He is in dispute with the institution over its appointment of the a receiver and is, to all practical purposes, insolvent, he said.


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