Lawlor home may be sold by court to pay legal bill

LIAM LAWLOR could be forced to sell his Lucan mansion to pay the legal bills arising from his failure to co-operate with the Planning Tribunal.

Inquiry lawyers yesterday sought a High Court order that a bill for over €430,000 partial payment of the total owed should be enforced against the former Fianna Fáil deputy by the sale of some of his property.

Mr Lawlor, who was issued with a summons, was unable to attend as he was appearing as a witness in Dublin Castle.

The case arises from a judgement against Mr Lawlor by the Taxing Master in December for €630,000.

The figure represents legal bills from a series of High Court proceedings between 2000 and 2002 which resulted in the jailing of the disgraced politician on three occasions for a total of six weeks.

The Tribunal has asked the High Court to order the payment of the money to be enforced by the sale of Mr Lawlor's property. If necessary, the Tribunal is asking the court to grant an order for possession of the lands. The Master of the High Court adjourned the hearing until October 7.

The issue is evidence of the Tribunal's desire to limit the exposure of taxpayers to the multi-million euro cost of the six-year inquiry. The Tribunal will begin hearings this autumn to adjudicate whether other parties who have submitted legal bills totalling over €21m should have their costs paid by the State. They include Ray Burke who wants his €10.5m legal costs paid by the Tribunal, despite obstructing its work in exposing his receipt of corrupt payments.

According to documents supplied by Mr Lawlor to the Tribunal, his sole property interest in Ireland is his family home called Somerton at Tandy's Lane, Lucan, Co Dublin.

Estate agents estimate that the secluded Georgian mansion, set on over five acres of land could fetch over €4m if sold.

Mr Lawlor's is facing considerable financial pressure. The 58-year-old consultant, who currently has no legal representation, has also had a €265,000 charge registered on Somerton by his former solicitor, Dermot Coyne and one of €154,000 from property developer, Seamus Ross of Menolly Homes.

Mr Lawlor told the Tribunal last week that he didn't have £10,000 to pay a London solicitor to provide documentation to the inquiry. However, the Tribunal chairman, Judge Alan Mahon said he had ample funds to meet this bill after hearing evidence that Lawlor withdrew over €330,000 from a Gibraltar account last year.

He also receives a Dáil pension as well as obtaining a once-off Dáil severance payment of €116,000 last month. The Tribunal has estimated that his annual expenditure is €200,000, while it has established that he also has around STG£50,000 in another offshore account.

Yesterday, the Tribunal heard that solicitor John Caldwell is claiming that Mr Lawlor blackmailed him into paying IR£685,000 to the former TD for his alleged share in the profits of property deals in Dublin.

The inquiry has established that the payments were disguised as loans, a formula which, Mr Lawlor claims, he used because of a dispute with Mr Caldwell.

Mr Lawlor resumes his evidence for a ninth day in Dublin Castle on Tuesday.

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