Page last updated at 17:55 GMT, Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Belfast landlord forfeits 40 houses at High Court

Belfast High Court

A woman who allegedly claimed housing benefit while owning and renting out more than 40 houses has agreed at the High Court to forfeit her properties.

The Serious Organised Crime Agency brought proceedings against Frances McCluskey, 61, of Priory Park, Belfast.

It alleged she derived the majority of her assets through fraudulently claiming benefits over 11 years while simultaneously amassing her portfolio.

Ms McCluskey consented to the recovery order on Wednesday.

It was the first case of its type in Northern Ireland to be brought by the Serious Organised Crime Agency.

Paintings

Ms McCluskey's assets include 41 properties, mainly in west Belfast, two Spanish properties, a number of paintings and money in a number of bank accounts.

The case was initially brought in 2004 by the Social Security Agency.

The settlement followed three days of negotiations at the High Court, where a two-week trial was due to run.

An order freezing Ms McCluskey's assets was granted in September 2005.

At the time, the High Court heard Ms McCluskey had been claiming benefits since 1993, but failed to declare she was trading in property under the name of Parkdale Homes and developing a substantial housing portfolio.

It was also claimed she made a number of false declarations about her assets, including substantial rental income when making mortgage applications.



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