Court asks DPP to examine alleged forged signatures on loan document

A HIGH Court judge has asked the DPP to examine alleged forged signatures on loan documents of ACC Bank plus a “fictitious” P60 in the bank’s files certifying a much higher rate of pay for a retired Garda in a case where the bank yesterday secured judgment for €3.27 million against the retired Garda and three others.

Two bank officials have left ACC since the forged signatures and other matters were raised with them by the bank’s internal audit, while ACC had decided not to subpoena one of those to testify in the case, Mr Justice Peter Kelly noted yesterday.

The bank had told the judge a handwriting expert had concluded signatures on a loan document were not those of the defendants.

ACC had brought proceedings against George and Evelyn Fahey, Rakerin, Gort, Co Galway, and George and Catherine McGrath, Sarah Cross, Loughrea, Co Galway, arising from a loan of €3.2m made in 2006. Mr McGrath, a retired Garda, has extensive property interests and he and Mr Fahey, were assessed by ACC in January 2008 as having a net worth of some €25.86m.

Mr Justice Kelly said the bank initially sought judgment, plus interest and costs, for some €4.5m against the four but had in court reduced that claim to €3.27m. As the defendants accepted they got the money, the bank was entitled to judgment in that smaller sum.

ACC was quite right to reduce its claim but its reasons why raised “a number of troubling issues”, he said.

Mr McGrath, 53, served 30 years in the Garda before retiring three years ago on pension, the judge noted. He was the only defendant to give evidence and the conduit through which ACC transmitted information to the other defendants. Over the past 20 years, he was heavily involved in acquiring lands.

By October 2008, Mr McGrath owned 25 properties valued at €6.5m and was also involved in several partnerships, including two with Mr Fahey, which had property portfolios valued at €12.2m and €26.1m.

ACC agreed in 2006 to grant the defendants a bridging loan to buy a property in Loughrea. A letter of loan sanction of May 9, 2006 sent to them at Mr McGrath’s address wrongly described the property as located at Main Street, Loughrea, and wrongly stated planning permission was granted. That letter was signed by Aidan Corcoran, a relationship manager, and Pat O’Callaghan, a senior manager, at ACC’s Galway financial services centre.

The defendants accepted the loan offer and signed a form of acceptance. Both Mr McGrath and a solicitor for ACC, Shane McSweeny, spotted the inaccuracies in the May 9 letter and recommended the bank correct those, the judge said.

The bank issued a fresh letter of sanction dated June 7, 2006 correctly describing the property’s location but continued to wrongly describe it as having planning permission for residential, office and retail units. The letter replaced the May 9 letter and was purportedly signed by the defendants and witnessed by Aidan Corcoran.

The defendants received €3.27m from ACC and failed to pay interest from August 2008. ACC in March 2009 demanded repayment of all monies and then took legal proceedings.

All four defendants had sworn they had not signed the June 7, 2006 letter or seen it until the legal action. Mr Corcoran had said “a copy of the June 2006 letter” was furnished to them but he could not recall the circumstances surrounding how that was done. He said he recalled receiving the signed letter and would have added his own signature. The June 2006 letter referred to him witnessing the signatures “which was not the case”, he said.

ACC’s counsel had accepted Mr Corcoran’s affidavit was “unsatisfactory” from ACC’s viewpoint.

The judge said he had been assured ACC took the matters raised very seriously. Both Mr Corcoran and Mr O’Callaghan, after been interviewed by ACC’s internal audit last year, had left ACC.

The case was adjourned to next week.


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