Daniel Belling (49) of Kilkee House, Clarke Village, Coolock, Dublin 17, pleaded guilty on his trial date to one count of dishonestly inducing the Bank of Ireland to providing a mortgage loan of €112,500 on 13 March 2014.
On five other occasions, Belling used false documents on dates between July 1, 2013 and January 27, 2015 to attempt to apply for loans, Dublin Circuit Criminal Court heard.
Passing sentence at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court today, Judge Martin Nolan said this offence was a “classic white-collar crime”.
The judge said that while Belling said his wife, who has been missing since 2017, was the driver of the scheme, he would take that explanation “with a pinch of salt”.
Judge Nolan said that Belling’s wife, who is the mother of his children, has disappeared and “I must consider if I should jail this man”.
Judge Nolan said he had reluctantly decided not to jail Belling. He sentenced him to three and a half years but suspended it fully.
Xing Li (38) disappeared after her, Mr Belling and their two children boarded cruise ship MSC Magnifica in the Italian port of Civitavecchia in February.
Mr Belling returned to Ireland in 2018 after 14 months on remand in an Italian jail in relation to the disappearance.
His solicitor persuaded authorities to release him from custody and he returned to the home he shared with his wife in Clarehall, Dublin.
In July 2020, Italian investigators announced that their probe into Ms Xing's disappearance had determined that computer programmer Mr Belling killed his wife while on the ship and disposed of her body in the sea.
In May of this year, a murder trial in his absence began in Italy.
In court today, Detective Garda Niamh Seberry told Garrett McCormack BL, prosecuting, that Belling, who has German citizenship, used fake documents, including a German ID card with an incorrect date of birth, payslips overstating his salary as €90k, bank statements with incorrect information and an altered P60.
In July 2013, Belling was successful on his fourth attempt at applying for a mortgage with Bank of Ireland. He used this mortgage of €112,000 to buy a house on Malahide Road, which was then rented out to tenants to cover the mortgage.
However, the documents used by the accused to access the mortgage had been falsified, and gardaí were alerted.
When Belling was interviewed by appointment on September 18, 2018, the court heard that he exercised his right to silence and answered: “No comment” in respect of each allegation put by gardaí. He has no previous convictions.
Det Gda Seberry told Róisín Lacey SC, defending, that Belling is the primary carer for his two sons, aged nine and 10, both born in Ireland. The court heard Belling was born in Germany and lived there for much of his life.
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Ms Lacey told the court that Belling had an exceptional work ethic and had worked in technical support for companies including Xerox, Canada Life, Hewlett Packard, Microsoft and most recently Apple, where he worked from 2012 to 2017.
The court heard Belling had a degree in computer science from DIT and had also done some training to be a nurse.
Ms Lacey said her client has been unemployed since 2017 and home-schools both his children.
He is not on social welfare in Ireland but claims welfare allowances from Germany as he is a German citizen.
A psychiatric report handed to the court showed that Belling had been an inpatient for depressive illnesses in Berlin as a result of suicide ideation and that although treatment had been successful, he still suffers from long-term depressive disorders and passivity.
Ms Lacey said the report showed that Belling had been subjected to “conditioning” from both a domineering mother and a domineering wife. His father died when he was two years old, and his mother remarried an alcoholic.
She said Belling’s wife had been listed as a missing person since 2017 and that both Belling and his wife had obtained safety orders against each other during the course of their 17-year marriage.
“Their relationship was tempestuous,” said Ms Lacey.
She said although Belling has taken full responsibility for his crimes, the plan to dishonestly gain mortgages had emanated from his wife, who knew Chinese people involved in forgery and liaised with them to forge the fake documents, payslips and ID card.
Ms Lacey said Belling’s wife planned to buy more and more properties and place tenants in them to pay off the mortgages.
Ms Lacey said her client told his wife that the scheme wouldn’t work and was reluctant, but he later told gardaí, “It was my fault. I shouldn’t have done it.”
The court heard that Belling had fallen into arrears on his mortgage repayments on the house on Malahide Road because the clients had failed to pay the rent.
Ms Lacey said the house still has €96,000 outstanding on the mortgage and that Belling borrowed €46,000 from his sister in order to pay the arrears, which have been settled in full.
Ms Lacey said a hearing has been scheduled before the Private Residential Tenancies Board later this month to deal with the tenants of the house, after which Belling intends to sell it.
She said Belling plans to use the money from the sale to pay off the mortgage and repay the loan to his sister.
The court heard Belling is at low risk of reoffending. He wrote a letter of apology to the court and is fully aware of how his actions have impacted on his children, the court heard.