Saturday 21 October 2017

AIB seizes jewel in the crown of TD Wallace's property empire

Donal O'Donovan

Donal O'Donovan

Controversial politician loses control of shops and offices in Dublin's Italian quarter

MICK Wallace has lost control of a raft of Dublin properties after AIB became the latest bank to move against the controversial developer-turned-politician.

State-owned AIB has seized a number of properties from Mick Wallace's M&J Wallace construction firm in recent days over what are understood to be millions in unpaid loans.

The bank has appointed accountant Gerard McInerney of McInerney Saunders as receiver over the assets.

The haul includes shops and offices in the Quartiere Bloom, Mr Wallace's signature Italian-style development in Dublin city centre, and the jewel in his one-time property empire.

Mr Wallace not only built the units but set up his own cafe, restaurant and shops in premises on the site to further his project of creating an authentic Italian atmosphere.

The area is better known to Dubliners as the Italian quarter and is close to the Ha'penny Bridge.

The move by AIB is the latest step in the slow carve-up of Mr Wallace's property empire, which has debts of €40m.

Last year ACC Bank, which is owned by Dutch lender Rabobank, appointed its own receivers to a number of other Wallace properties.

Receiver Declan Taite valued the ACC assets at an estimated €4m earlier this year.

ACC also took a legal action against Mr Wallace himself that ended with the High Court ordering him to pay the lender €19m, a sum so large it could potentially bankrupt him, and so cost him his seat in the Dail.

Since it secured the order against Mr Wallace last October, ACC has registered judgment mortgages in the Registry of Deeds against 26 properties owned by him or by his company, including a family home in Clontarf in Dublin. Judgment mortgages mean that ACC could seize and dispose of the properties.

AIB was able to appoint its own receivers because it already had charges, or mortgages, over Wallace properties at five locations in Dublin, mainly in prime city centre locations including Temple Bar and Middle Abbey Street.

Allowance

The latest receivership is understood to include an interest in a unit at 43 East Essex Street in Temple Bar, a building refurbished by M&J Wallace for the Communist Party of Ireland in 2006 and 2007.

Other property at the same address, including the landmark Connolly Bookshop, the redeveloped New Theatre and the Communist Party of Ireland headquarters, are completely unaffected by the AIB move and have had no links to M&J Wallace since the refurbishment work was completed.

The latest blow for Mr Wallace comes after the Independent Wexford TD admitted deliberately under-declaring €1.4m of VAT paid to M&J Wallace earlier this year.

The issue led to other independent TDs distancing themselves from Mr Wallace, and in June he vowed to use half his Dail salary to help pay off the tax debt.

It was revealed last month that Mr Wallace subsequently began claiming a €41,000-a-year Dail leader's allowance to fund research projects.

Mr Wallace could not be reached last night, and a spokeswoman for AIB declined to comment.

Mick Wallace: empire has debts of around €40m

Irish Independent

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