A PUBLICAN and hotelier – who NAMA claims owes it €29m – transferred ownership of 40 properties to his wife and other family members, the High Court has been told.
The National Asset Management Agency (NAMA) is in court seeking repayment of €29m in property and business loans that the state agency claims it is owned by businessman David Cullen.
Mr Cullen, formerly of Claremont Road, Carrickmines, Dublin, and now living in London, has applied to be declared bankrupt in the UK.
In court, he claimed the Irish courts did not have jurisdiction to deal with the case brought against him by NAMA. He also questioned NAMA's claim to the 40 transferred properties, the Commercial Court heard yesterday.
NAMA has applied to have the legal case fast-tracked by being moved to the Commercial Court, which deals with large business cases and works faster than the rest of the court system.
Yesterday, that application was adjourned until January 23.
Mr Cullen could bring his own application challenging the court's jurisdiction on the same day, according to Mr Justice Peter Kelly.
However, that would face "an uphill battle" the judge said, in circumstances where the loans were issued under contracts in Ireland for properties in Ireland.
The case relates to millions in loans made by Bank of Ireland to Mr Cullen from 2002 onwards, including money to buy the well-known Turks Head pub and the Paramount Hotel in Temple Bar in Dublin, and to develop the luxury Seafield Hotel and apartments at Seafield, Ballymoney, Wexford.
The loans were transferred to NAMA in 2010, and it is now asking the court to order Mr Cullen to repay the debt.
Yesterday, Maurice Collins SC, for NAMA, said Bank of Ireland and later NAMA had made efforts to engage with Mr Cullen from 2009.
Mr Cullen was slow to engage, had raised issues about the basis on which the bank was seeking to engage with him and had walked out of meetings, the lawyer said.
The case is being handled by NAMA's loan management arm.
NAMA said it had rejected a business plan for dealing with the debt submitted by Mr Cullen on June 26 last year. It then issued a formal demand for the loans to be repaid.
Barrister Martin Hayden SC, who is acting for Mr Cullen, said he was contesting the court's jurisdiction to hear the case because his client lived in the UK and had applied for bankruptcy.