Allegations that a mentally retarded property owner in Belfast was dispossessed of his assets illegally could jeopardise a new £50 million development in the city centre.
The catalyst of the dispute is Eileen Wright, a Belfast housewife who is claiming that her handicapped brother, Freddie Andrews, was fiddled out of a large part of his inheritance by unscrupulous "friends", solicitors and estate agents.
Mr Andrews was left substantial property interests in central Belfast by his father, Frederick Andrews, a successful businessman who died in 1972. The son, however, was deemed medically incapable of running his own affairs from his teenage years, when he underwent a brain operation.
Nevertheless his estate was not made a ward of court until 1979. During the preceding seven years a former friend of Mr Andrews senior, the now deceased Charles Gilpin, persuaded Freddie to change his firm of solicitors and helped arrange the disposal of a number of the properties. Mr. Gilpin was a prominent member of the Plymouth Brethren religious sect.
Although the sale documents apparently bore Freddie's signature, there is official recognition that the man was incapable of giving valid legal consent to such transactions.
The properties in question, in Little King Street and Winetavern Street, and others subsequently sold by the official solicitor on Mr Andrew's behalf, border the £50 million development proposed by John Laing for the city centre. Some were also acquired for the company's redevelopment of Smithfield Market, which is nearly complete.
Mrs Wright has campaigned for years to redress the injustice she feels her brother suffered. The Royal Ulster Constabulary's fraud squad has investigated Mr. Gilpin's handling of Freddie Andrews' affairs extensively, and the inquiries seem to have produced a result at last.
On August 28 Mrs Wright was informed by D B Mellor, assistant chief constable for crime, that the investigation papers had been passed on to the Director of Public Prosecutions and "his directions as to what further action should be taken are awaited."
Mrs Wright has now also secured political backing for her case. Roy Beggs, the Official Unionist MP for East Antrim, yesterday called for a public enquiry into the affair.
Mr. Beggs said: "There is more than a suggestion that there may have been collusion between property dealers, estate agents and solicitors and that the rightful owner was 'ripped-off by a wolf parading Christian respectability, which gave opportunity to exploit and plunder."
The Unionist MP welcomed the fact that the files had been sent to the DPP and said that all the fraud squad's papers on the matter should be released to the public enquiry.
In the meantime he called for all transactions and developments on the affected properties to be frozen.