A former Fine Gael councillor will be sentenced next week after being found guilty yesterday on six charges of receiving a total of €80,000 in corrupt payments from a property developer.
Fred Forsey Jnr, aged 43, sobbed at Waterford Circuit Court after a jury delivered six unanimous verdicts following a trial which lasted eight days.
Members of his family in the public gallery gasped as the verdicts were read out. Forsey initially betrayed no emotion, briefly looking at the ground and then at the jury from across the courtroom, before breaking down emotionally as the judge ordered him to return for sentencing next Thursday.
Under the Prevention of Corruption Act 2001, Forsey from Coolagh Road, Dungarvan, Co Waterford, could face a jail sentence of up to up to 10 years.
His partner Karen Morrissey, 26, comforted him as he left the courtroom and, after consulting briefly with his family and legal team in an adjoining room, he left the courthouse and drove away in his 1999 Mercedes.
His estranged wife Jenny Forsey, who testified for the prosecution last week, was not present for the conclusion of the trial.
The jury had determined that payments he received from a businessman in 2006 of €60,000 and two further amounts of €10,000 were corrupt. Forsey had claimed they were loans.
The payments were alleged to have been a reward or inducement for Forsey’s support of the rezoning of land owned by a developer outside Dungarvan.
According to the state, Forsey, a town councillor, lobbied county councillors and officials to have the land rezoned from agricultural to industrial and residential use, and also proposed a motion at Dungarvan Town Council calling for an extension of the town boundary.
Forsey said he did receive payments of €60,000, €10,000 and €10,000 on three dates in August of 2006 but insisted they were intended as a loan.
He said that any corrupt payment to him would have been “the worst corrupt payment in history” as he did not have a vote on the county council — the authority with jurisdiction over the land in question.
The trial heard that Forsey and his wife Jenny, 42, split in autumn of 2006. She had suspicions about an affair he was having and the suspicions were confirmed when he inadvertently sent a text message, meant for his “new partner”, to his daughter.
Mrs Forsey told the court last week she never saw any “loan agreement” which the defence said was drawn up between the developer and the accused in August of 2006.
The State said the loan document was only drawn up in January of 2007, some weeks after Mrs Forsey made a threat to her husband that she would go to the guards with information about the payments from the developer, if the accused didn’t pay her back €10,000 he had borrowed for his business.
Mrs Forsey denied during the trial that she was “out for revenge” when she approached Fine Gael TD John Deasy in April of 2007 to voice “suspicions” about her husband’s dealings with the businessman.
Jenny Forsey was not in court yesterday having been present on the second day, when she was in the witness box. She returned on the sixth day when she heard Mr Forsey say she told a “couple of lies” in her evidence and was there, also, on the morning of the seventh day of the proceedings.
Some of the 32-hectare parcel of land at the centre of the trial was subsequently rezoned for industrial use — without any residential element — in 2008. The decision, made by Waterford County Council after a divisive debate and vote, was subsequently overturned by then-environment minister John Gormley who had written to the council beforehand.
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