Couple’s farmland may be sold to pay six-figure debt

A High Court ruling has ordered a couple who run a tillage farm in the midlands to pay a €352,000 debt within a month or have some of their farmland put up for sale to settle the bill, according to reports.

The couple in question, Jim and June Smith, run a 1,600ac farm in Portarlington, Co. Laois. They were sued by agricultural merchants Quinns of Baltinglass, Co. Wicklow, according to the Irish Examiner.

Mr Justice David Keane granted an order to Quinns over the lands – meaning unless the couple pay the debt in 28 days, the land can be put up for sale. If this occurs, the court will distribute the proceeds of the sale at a later date.

It is believed that the order does not affect their home – which is on the property – and a right-of-way to the house has been given as part of the court order.

The issue purportedly goes back to a debt Mr. Smith had with Quinns in 2009 – a judgment order was made against Smith in 2010 over the debt which, at the time, was €292,000, including interest.

This was partially paid when Smith delivered grain worth €54,000 to Quinns in 2011. However, no further repayments were made, the Examiner report said.

An attempt was reportedly made to seize property to pay the judgment in the spring of 2012 by the Laois County Sheriff, but was unsuccessful as no property could be found.

In August of 2012, Quinns received a tip-off that Smith and his wife had established a company called Nujmij and was delivering grain to Glanbia.

Quinns got an injunction stopping the Smiths from dissipating their assets and directing Glanbia to retain €65,000 due to the couple for the grain.

Mr Justice Keane ruled that the transfer of ownership of the grain by Smith to Nujmij, which went to Glanbia, was made with the intention to defraud Quinns as Smith’s creditor. He allowed Quinns a declaration that the transfer of ownership was void.

In the intervening period, up to February 2016, the debt rose to €352,000, inclusive of interest.

The judge granted an order for payment of the €352,000 within 28 days which – if not paid – would mean that certain lands of the Smiths could be put up for sale.

Mr Smith is believed to have told the court that what lands he solely owns have been charged to a financial institution, to which he owes debts much greater than the value of the property.