Former Irish Nationwide boss Michael Fingleton faces fraud claims over hotel deal
2nd January 2022
Former Irish Nationwide boss Michael Fingleton is facing renewed accusations of fraud involving a multimillion-euro hotel deal in Montenegro.
The accusations, contained in new court documents filed in Montenegro, relate to a decades-long dispute between Mr Fingleton and a former business partner, Louis Maguire.
The pair were once partners in a €70m plan to develop Hotel Fjord in Kotor into a luxury resort and marina in 2006. In return for putting together the deal, Mr Maguire secured a 25% stake in the project.© Provided by Extra.ie Michael Fingleton Pic: Leah Farrell /RollingNews.ie
From 2008, relations appear to have soured, creditors went unpaid and Mr Maguire launched a series of commercial cases accusing Mr Fingleton of acting illegally.
The bitter falling out has already resulted in Mr Fingleton facing down a criminal inquiry in Montenegro amid allegations of money laundering and questions about the origins of the funds used to buy the hotel.
Mr Fingleton has steadfastly maintained he always acted legitimately and that Mr Maguire’s allegations are unfounded. Now, in the latest case before the courts, Mr Maguire is accusing Mr Fingleton of defrauding him of his 25% stake in the project.
Mr Maguire’s Irish-registered firm, United Entertainment Partners Ltd, is taking the case as a ‘subsidiary prosecutor’. This mechanism allows injured parties in Montenegro to file criminal indictments for an investigative judge to consider.© Provided by Extra.ie Former Managing Director Irish Nationwide Michael Fingleton Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins
The indictment, first filed in November 2019, accuses Mr Fingleton of ‘fraud’ contrary to Article 244 of the Criminal Code of Montenegro – an offence which can carry a three-year jail sentence. Mr Fingleton and named associates – including his son Michael Fingleton Jr – are also accused of using ‘false balance sheets, simulated loan agreements, forged documents and other means, all with the intention of obtaining illegal property gain on behalf of Michael Fingleton and other persons’.
In April this year the Ministry of Justice in Montenegro wrote to the Department of Justice in Ireland to request that Mr Fingleton be formally served with a summons. But Irish authorities rejected the request from Montenegro on the basis of insufficient assurances relating to action that may be taken against Mr Fingleton should he be compelled to travel to the country.
The assurances included that Mr Fingleton ‘will not be proceeded against, sentenced, detained or otherwise restricted… other than for the offence specified in the request’.© Provided by Extra.ie Former chief executive Michael Fingleton Photograph: ©Fran Veale
‘It is unclear from your request what the position is in your country,’ wrote an official from the Department of Justice’s Central Authority for Mutual Assistance.
In a hearing on September 22 this year, the courts in Montenegro noted that ‘such a guarantee for the service of summons cannot be given to this defendant’.
Mr Fingleton bought Hotel Fjord in Kotor for €5.5m in a 2006 deal reportedly involving Veselin Vesko Barovic – an alleged cigarette smuggler.
Amidst ongoing disputes with Mr Maguire he sold the property for €10.5m in 2018. As previously revealed, Mr Fingleton travelled to Montenegro to sign the sale agreement as he told Irish authorities he was too ill to attend the Central Bank’s inquiry into Irish Nationwide.
Subsequently, in December 2019, the Central Bank quietly dropped its inquiry into Mr Fingleton on medical grounds. This week Michael Fingleton Jr acknowledged questions from Extra.ie on behalf of his father but said he could not add to previous statements issued by his father.
Mr Fingleton Sr previously said any criminal allegations against him were ‘unfounded, without merit and completely false’.
He said: ‘All transactions in relation to this [hotel] project to date were totally legitimate, fully transparent and fully funded by me from my own personal resources.’
It is not clear what Mr Fingleton did with the proceeds of the hotel sale. But there are indications he may have sent the funds to the UK with the help of Michael Jr, who once oversaw Irish Nationwide’s British operations