The allegations of former employee Charles ‘Buster’ Lewin over Heritage Homes’ Kirk Michael land-swap deal have been strongly denied by company representatives.
Giving evidence to a Tynwald Select Committee investigating the halted deal with the Department of Education and Children, Heritage Homes’ managing director Seamus Nugent dismissed accusations made by Mr Lewin at a hearing in May.
Mr Nugent opened with a defence of his company’s integrity, saying it had a successful 20-year history in the island.
‘The only secret to our success is the endless hard work of our professionals; nothing more,’ he said.
‘We invest huge sums of money in the island, and no one has done more on the regeneration of Douglas. We don’t pick the land; it’s marked in pink in the Government development plans.’
The deal in question was to be a major residential development by Heritage Homes, which was complicated by ownership of surrounding land that proposed and alternative access routes would have had to have passed through.
Earlier this year Mr Lewin – whose employment at Heritage Homes ended in April 2011 and who is currently serving a prison sentence over the Douglas East by-election fraud – gave evidence to the Tynwald committee that the company had deliberately misled the government about access rights to the Kirk Michael development site.
‘Instead of making progress we find ourselves here today for two reasons,’ said Mr Nugent. ‘To pick over the bones of the deal. It came down to an agreement between two willing landowners, with Heritage Homes as the facilitator. The second reason is to answer the malicious accusations of Buster Lewin. He must be sitting in his cell right now, laughing at the mischief he has caused.’
Mr Nugent said Mr Lewin had been taken on by the company ‘as a favour’ in April 2007.
‘He had been fired from Braddan Commissioners, needing a job to sort himself out. He was not on millions, or the promise of millions,’ said the managing director.
It was put to Mr Nugent that Mr Lewin had led the committee to believe that while an employee he had an ‘open cheque book’ to secure land deals. Mr Nugent countered that Mr Lewin had in fact been an ‘administrative clerk’ on a basic salary of between £20,000 and £30,000.
‘He was asked to have a look around the island for parcels of land and opportunities,’ he explained. ‘It was something for him to do. Mr Lewin knew a lot of people, and knew a lot of farmers. He wasn’t involved in negotiations; he couldn’t make decisions. He reported back to us,’
Mr Nugent said when Mr Lewin was eventually suspended, he ‘would not go quietly’.
‘He has hurt and damaged everyone he has come into contact with, not least himself. In my opinion, “an unprincipled narcissist” describes him perfectly,’ said Mr Nugent.
Asked about Mr Lewin’s accusations that Heritage Homes deliberately withheld concerns about access problems from the government, Mr Nugent replied: ‘It is absolutely not true. We were aware of the rights since 2001. They’re there to be clearly seen by anybody. They’re set out in the detail, in the deeds of the land. We concealed nothing, there was nothing to conceal.’