The Taoiseach Brian Cowen has become embroiled in a row in the UK arising from his family investment in student apartments in Leeds. The Taoiseach and his wife, Mary are listed as two of 12 named investors in a company Carrs Mills Investment Partnership. Timesonline.co.uk report that Carrs Mills Investment Partnership invested in the construction of a student cluster apartments described as a hall of residence at Leeds University. The website reports that the project was financed by Allied Irish Banks to the tune of £12.5 M in 2005 when Cowen served as Ireland’s Minster of Finance. The value of the property is now believed to be significantly less than the initial 2005 value put on the property.
The court action results from the Newcastle based freeholder taking a case seeking payment of ground rents and management fees worth £100K from the investors who the freeholder claims had no right to sub-let the property to Leeds University. The Irish investors will deny this claim.One of Taoiseach Cowen’s partners in the investment was convicted in the Irish courts of administering Clenbuterol (Angel Dust) to cattle in 1996 and sentenced to 12 months imprisonment. Mr Cowen and his co-investors initially took out the loans in 2005 when he served as Ireland’s Minister of Finance. According to a student interviewed at Carr Mills annual rents of around £4,000 are charged by the university. Mr Cowen’s apartment can accommodate seven students in individual bedrooms sharing a kitchen and dining area, suggesting an annual return of up to £28,000.
It was when the developer sold on the freehold to a Newcastle based firm Adderstone Group that irregularities between the developer and the Irish investors surfaced. The freeholder claims that the Irish syndicate sub-let to the university without the authority of the freeholder
The freeholder describes that action as “an irredeemable breach of covenant”. Bills sent out to the individual lease-holders for ground rent and management fees have not been paid. The most recent claim for management fees sent to Mr Cowen’s address as recorded in the Land Registry was returned, with a note attached saying “Not known at this address”. 60 Merrion Square, in the heart of Georgian Dublin and a stone’s throw from Leinster House and the Offices of the Taoiseach. It is a four-storey town house with two residential apartments on the upper floors and offices, which are vacant and available for rent. The property contains the office of Mr Enda Hunston, MD of Mr Huston seems to have an extraordinary interest in the Irish tax dodging rock combo U2 as his horses are called “It’s a beautiful Day” and “Where the streets have no name”. Mr Hunston’s horse Freeloader interestingly raced at the Galway Races in 2007 finishing 2nd in the Guiness Galway Hurdle in front of the adoring Fianna Fail faithful at the Galway tent.
The revelations about Mr Cowen’s financial affairs could not come at a more embarrasing time for An Taoiseach. In 2008 Mr Cowen introduced a guarantee to protect all savers in Allied Irish Banks. AIB is the sole Irish bank that has yet to see a change in leadership following the colapse in confidence in the banking industry. Mr Cowen’s Finance Minister Brian Lenihan recently decried Irish citizens shoping outside the juristiction appealing to their patriotic duty to support native outlets. The revelation about Mr Cowen’s nvestment in British property will further add to the Taoiseachs embarrasment by the property dealings of his former party running mate, Ger Killaly who recently was before the Irish courts in relation to separte dealings in property.
This development will be potentially embarrasing for the Taoiseach on a number of grounds, In late 2008 the Irish Mail on Sunday asked cabinet ministers if they had beneftted from Anglo Irish loans and just 3 cabinet ministers said they hadn’t. One estimate of Mr Cowen’s liability with regard to the iniatial loan runs as high as €400K. Last week his emergency budget established a state asset management agency NAMA to manage properties finaced by Irish banking istitutions where the developer could not meet outstanding payments. While his predecessor Bertie Ahern was in tribunals regarding his finances Mr Cowen was cited as being above reproach and clearly once more we see Fianna Fail people in potential conflict of interest again, beholdedn financially to the same institution that another predessor Charlie Haughey was in debt to. To paraphrase the bank's attitude to the then leader, "What a great little country we are!" No mention of this issue so far today on rte.ie/news.