Company at centre of planning mystery

IT’S a mystery that would challenge the abilities of Kojak and Columbo combined.

But next month it is expected the Flood Tribunal will finally reveal who really owns Jackson Way Properties, the controversial property company at the centre of a 116m compensation claim against the State.

The colourful history of Jackson Way and its very lucrative lands at Carrickmines, in south Co Dublin, dates back almost 15 years.

Disgraced former TD Liam Lawlor’s close friend and associate Jim Kennedy, a former arcade owner and publican, agreed to buy the 106 acres from a farmer for £685,000 in 1998. Mr Kennedy is under investigation by the tribunal in relation to his links to George Redmond, the former senior Dublin Co Council official.

The deal was completed through an Isle of Man-registered company called Paisley Park. Later, when this company sought rezoning of the agricultural land, it was represented by Frank Dunlop. Sometime later, the company’s name was changed to Jackson Way properties.

At the third rezoning attempt, 24 acres were redesignated for industrial use in 1997. But when plans for the south-eastern motorway were announced the following year, the company challenged the approval of the motorway, as well as the constitutionality of the 1993 Planning Act, in the High Court and Supreme Court.

Jackson Way argued that the motorway development would bisect its lands at Carrickmines, thereby giving inadequate access to the property and blocking chances of having the land developed in the future.

But the suspicion is that the company appreciated the strategic location of the land and may even have known of the plans for the motorway and associated developments at an early stage.

In effect, it is alleged the company wanted the benefits to accrue to it should it be forced to surrender part of its land. Following a rezoning vote sponsored by Fianna Fáil, the land was made more valuable to the owners

The company backed down from its court challenge in December, 1999 but the owners could still be in line for a huge cash windfall because of the motorway route. The county council compulsorily bought 22 acres of the land to build the motorway and the State will have to pay tens of millions because part of the site is zoned for industrial use.

Jackson Way lodged a compensation claim for 116m for land and this is currently being decided upon by an arbitration board.

Ironically, the Jackson Way lands were found to have held the remains of a substantial medieval castle site and settlement uncovered in Ireland this century. Conservationists claim the motorway was rerouted through the site to appease Jackson Way as the company was complaining about access to its lands.

Effectively, Jackson Way is a so-called shelf company registered in Birmingham. The company is designed to hide the identities of the real owners of the land. Despite a lengthy investigation by Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown Co Council, officials failed to establish the identities of the real owners of the land.

Frank Dunlop did name former solicitor Jim Caldwell as an owner of Jackson Way. But Mr Caldwell, who lives abroad, has refused to answer correspondence from the tribunal.

The Criminal Assets Bureau (CAB) is now on the case after beginning its investigations into the firm earlier this year. The offices of Binchy solicitors, where Mr Caldwell was a consultant, were raided by CAB last March and a clerk was caught trying to hide a Jackson Way file and subsequently jailed. The net is closing on Jackson Way and it looks as though Justice Finbarr Flood and his colleagues may yet get to the bottom of a 15-year old mystery.

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