Tuesday 6 December 2016

Celtic Tiger borrowings have always been TD's Achilles heel

Published 08/11/2016 | 02:30

Mick Wallace Photo: Tom Burke
Mick Wallace Photo: Tom Burke

Mick Wallace put on a brave face when he learned in September last year that an Ulster Bank loan secured against one of his Dublin restaurants, La Taverna Di Bacco, had been bought by Cerberus.

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It just so happened that the US vulture fund had bought Project Eagle, a massive Nama loans portfolio, the previous year - a deal Mr Wallace believes "stinks to high heaven".

Thanks to the TD's interventions in the Dáil, a criminal investigation was launched in Northern Ireland, while the deal has also been examined by the US Securities and Exchange Commission.

Asked whether he was worried about how his debt would be treated by Cerberus in light of the serious allegations he had made, Mr Wallace said: "I believe Cerberus treat all of their borrowers equally and fairly.

"I look forward to being treated well."

For its part, Cerberus said it was "dedicated to reaching as many consensual outcomes as possible" and treated every borrower "fairly and consistently". But a month after it took over the loan, Cerberus issued a demand for the repayment of €2m.

By January of this year it had secured a High Court judgment for the sum.

Yesterday, Cerberus moved to have Mr Wallace adjudicated a bankrupt.

The TD claimed the fund is "settling a score", a comment to which Cerberus has declined to respond.

Whatever the rights and wrongs of Cerberus's approach towards Mr Wallace's debt, the Wexford's TD's Celtic Tiger borrowings have always been his Achilles heel and the prospect of bankruptcy has loomed large for the past four or five years.

He admitted as much in June 2012 when he was named on the tax defaulters' list with a liability of €2.1m. On that occasion, he reached an agreement with the Revenue Commissioners.

But he also has a €19.1m judgment in favour of ACC hanging over his head from 2011. A court heard earlier this year that little had been recovered since the judgment.

Irish Independent

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