herald

Tuesday 25 July 2017

Former Taoiseach Cowen involved in legal dispute over flats

Former Taoiseach Brian Cowen
Former Taoiseach Brian Cowen

Former Taoiseach Brian Cowen is one of a number of investors involved in a dispute with an English law firm, which advised them when they bought student flats in Leeds.

More than 40 investors have taken High Court action in England after claiming they lost money and accusing Punch Robson Solicitors, which has an office in Middlesbrough, of negligence.

Punch Robson, which is believed to be contesting damages claims, did not respond to a request for comment.

Mr Cowen, Taoiseach between 2008 and 2011, features on a list of claimants in legal papers lodged at the High Court in London. Other claimants include GAA pundit Michael Duignan.

Judges have not yet begun overseeing High Court hearings.

Solicitor Chris Waters, who is representing claimants, said the dispute centres on a student accommodation development called Carr Mills in Leeds.

He said the development was completed about 12 years ago and had gone into receivership in 2011.

Schemes

Mr Waters said his firm is representing more than 40 claimants, who had each paid around £270,000 (€308,000) for apartments, bought as investment properties.

He said claimants had taken out mortgages and the "anticipated value" of total damages claims is £14m (€16m).

"The claimants all have vast outstanding liabilities with various Irish banks, but primarily the Allied Irish Bank," he said.

"We are aware that UK-based investment schemes of this nature were prominent with Irish investors between 2004 and 2008.

"At the time, these investment schemes were being sold as having low or no risk, with participants generally funding purchases with the benefit of 100pc mortgages.

"Properties were often overvalued or failed to perform in line with representations made.

"Some of these developments have gone into receivership, leaving participants with significant outstanding liabilities.

"Hundreds of Irish citizens who bought into 'risk-free' schemes have been left with crippling lifetime debt."

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