Lawlor property denials 'nothing short of a lie' says judge

THE Planning Tribunal has exposed major contradictions in Liam Lawlor's claims that he never had any involvement in major property deals in Ireland.

The inquiry heard further evidence yesterday which raises serious questions over denials by the former TD that he had any significant beneficial interest in land apart from his home in Lucan, Co Dublin.

It led tribunal chairman, Judge Alan Mahon to observe that such claims were "nothing short of a lie" after hearing detailed evidence about Mr Lawlor's influential role in a land deal in west Dublin in the mid-1990s.

The tribunal yesterday revealed documentation which shows Mr Lawlor held numerous meetings with controversial businessman Jim Kennedy and solicitor John Caldwell to arrange the purchase of 55 acres of land at Coolamber, Lucan, in 1994 in a deal financed by beef baron, Larry Goodman.

Notes of the meeting which were recorded by Mr Lawlor were provided to the tribunal by another solicitor, Noel Smyth. They highlight how the former TD organised the total financing of the deal which resulted in the land being bought for £220,000 and subsequently resold for a profit of £1.5m after its ownership had passed through a number of offshore companies.

They also showed the three men reached an agreement whereby Mr Lawlor was entitled to 41.3% of Southfield Properties, a company set up to buy the site, although this figure was later reduced to 25% to be held on the former TD's behalf by Mr Caldwell.

Judge Mahon said Mr Lawlor's claims that he had forgotten almost every detail of his involvement in the project defied belief. The documents starkly contradict Mr Lawlor's evidence to the tribunal in his first appearance in the witness box at Dublin Castle in December 2000.

He stated then that his only major property interest in Ireland was in his home at Somerton, Lucan.

In a series of affidavits filed six months later, Mr Lawlor acknowledged he had known about the Coolamber lands but insisted his primary role was as "an adjoining landowner" who recognised the potential of the site. He also stressed he had no involvement in either the purchase of ownership of the property.

He explained yesterday he always had an expectation that he would receive a finder's fee if the land was subsequently resold at a profit. Under detailed questioning, Mr Lawlor was eventually forced to concede he had received £350,000 from the sale of the Coolamber lands (which are now known as Finnstown).

However, Mr Lawlor rejected the barrister's accusation that there was "a considerable deficit of truth" in his evidence to the inquiry.

The tribunal also heard Mr Lawlor had an interest in five property firms, including Valley Holdings which owned a drainage site that was crucial for development of the Coolamber site. Lawlor said he was never aware of the names of the firms.

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