A former Fine Gael councillor told gardaí he asked a property developer for a loan of €70,000 at a time when his marriage was breaking up, his business was failing and he was behind with his mortgage.
Fred Forsey Jr, aged 43, of Coolagh Rd, Abbeyside, Dungarvan, Co Waterford, denies receiving €60,000, €10,000 and €10,000 in three corrupt payments from a developer in 2006, alleged to have been made to him for his support for a land rezoning planned by the developer.
Waterford Circuit Court heard yesterday that he swore on his “kids’ lives” to gardaí that the payments were not corrupt and that he was meant to pay them back. None of the money was ever paid back.
“I was slowly going broke. I was getting into debt and behind on the mortgage and car payments,” he told gardaí, later adding: “At the time it was going on, I was splitting up with my ex-wife because I was having an affair.”
He also said he was “not the best husband in the world” around the time of his separation. “I just woke up one morning, my bags were packed, and I was thrown out the front door.”
After he was arrested at a wedding in July of 2009, Mr Forsey told detectives that, when he called the developer in Aug 2006 seeking a loan, he told him he wanted to renovate his house and finish an extension and that he would pay him back when he got a re-mortgage.
He received an initial payment of €60,000, then another €10,000 shortly afterwards, he told gardaí, and went back for another €10,000 from the developer some months later as the money was gone.
Among his expenditures after receiving the money were: A family holiday to Rome before his marriage split up; a holiday with his new partner Karen Morrissey; an engagement ring for her which cost between €1,800 and €2,100; windows, curtains and fireplaces for his family home so they could re-mortgage it; changing his old car and adding another car; and money for his ex-wife.
The court heard that his bank account was overdrawn by €239.65 on Aug 24, 2006; had €60,000 paid into it by the developer the following day; and was overdrawn by €2,033.53 the following December. In the meantime he had also secured €33,000 in re-financing on the house he had shared with his wife.
Mr Forsey denied to gardaí that the developer asked him to lobby in favour of the land development outside Dungarvan and repeatedly denied, during interviews, that the payment was corrupt.
“If it was a corrupt payment, it was the worst corrupt payment in history. I couldn’t do anything.” He said that, as a town councillor, he had no vote in any rezoning of land outside the town. He moved out of the family home six weeks after receiving the initial payment from the developer, Mr Forsey told gardaí, and had been “involved” with Ms Morrissey for “about four to six months” before he moved out.
‘We should never have voted on rezoning’
A Fine Gael councillor told the Fred Forsey trial how some of her party colleagues voted to rezone a piece of land that was already the subject of a Garda investigation and a ministerial letter.
Cllr Ann-Marie Power said two years after Mr Forsey was alleged to have received the payments and a year after the piece of land came under investigation, some of the land came before Waterford County Council for rezoning as industrial.
The then environment minister, John Gormley, wrote to the council in Mar 2007 to warn them against rezoning the land, she said, and the county manager’s advice was that it was “inappropriate”.
The minister subsequently overturned the 13-8 majority vote in favour of the rezoning.
“There was a Garda investigation ongoing in Waterford pertaining to this matter,” she said. “We should never, ever have voted on this rezoning. The dogs on the street knew there were problems with it and we went into this meeting knowing there was something wrong.”
The issue caused a “major split” within Fine Gael on Waterford County Council, she said, and seven of her party colleagues backed the rezoning while she was one of three from her party to vote against it, “because we knew it was wrong”.
She said there was “a lot of intimidation” in the council chamber around the time of the vote; she said she felt she was being “beaten with a stick” and the councillors speaking against the rezoning were “being silenced by some of my fellow councillors”. The trial continues.
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