Wednesday 28 June 2017

Wallace loan to block ACC getting his home

Developer also sold vineyard in Italy to brother owed €550,000

Ronald Quinlan

Ronald Quinlan

WEXFORD TD Mick Wallace may have given personal guarantees on "just about everything", but the ACC Bank is wasting its time if it thinks it can take his family home or even the vineyard in Italy as it seeks to recover the €19m for which it was granted judgement in the High Court last Monday.

For however aggressive it decides to be in its efforts to get its millions back, a mortgage Mr Wallace took with the AIB in 2004 on his home in Clontarf effectively blocks the ACC from trying to take possession of the property.

And any possible designs that the Dutch-owned lender might have in relation to the Wexford TD's beloved vineyard in Cortemelia meanwhile won't do it any good either, given that he only recently sold it to his own brother.

Commenting on the deal in an interview earlier this year, Mr Wallace said: "I had to sell it to a creditor -- who happens to be my brother. I owed him €550,000 and I sold him the vineyard. It's not something I wanted to do but he was going to get nothing for the €550,000 worth of material that I had got from him for construction work.

"I still go down there [to the vineyard]. But I don't enjoy the fact that I had to sell it and I did offer it to other creditors who didn't want it. They were holding out for the hope that they'd get money and hopefully they will."

But as much as that disclosure might stick in the craw of the debt recovery unit at the ACC, the Independent TD has insisted that the sale of the vineyard was all above board. To prove his point, Mr Wallace revealed how the deal's validity had been already been accepted by the Revenue Commissioners.

While the precise timing of the Italian transaction is not known, it must have taken place at some point during the period between an interview the independent TD gave on The Late Late Show in November 2009 and the newspaper interview last March in which he revealed its sale.

Asked specifically by Ryan Tubridy in 2009 if he still had his Italian vineyard, Mr Wallace said that he did.

Asked in the same interview if the banks in Ireland could potentially take his vineyard in the light of his financial situation, he said: "The banks can take just about everything. I haven't got a whole lot of different companies, it's very much all tied up together and because there's personal guarantees involved, any stuff that is not in the company name but personally owned by me is also caught in the net."

Several efforts by the Sunday Independent to reach Mr Wallace by phone to establish the exact date of the vineyard's sale proved to be unsuccessful.

But while the Italian property is now beyond the reach of creditors by virtue of the fact that it is no longer his, Mr Wallace's Dublin home could yet be under threat should AIB decide to follow the lead of ACC and demand the immediate repayment of monies it loaned to him for development during the boom years.

As holders of the one and only mortgage charge over the property, AIB would not be impeded in its efforts to take possession of the house in the event that Mr Wallace provided personal guarantees for his development loans with them.

Apart from the €19m for which the ACC has secured judgement, Mr Wallace has outstanding loans of some €21m with the AIB, the Ulster Bank and Bank of Scotland (Ireland).

It remains to be seen what these institutions will do to recover their money given Mr Wallace's admission in the case of his ACC debt that he could not pay it back.

"I'm not in a very good position but I accept the judgement of the court. I borrowed the money, I can't pay it back so that's my problem," he said as he left the High Court last Monday.

Speaking on RTE radio later that same day, Mr Wallace conceded that he could yet be bankrupted by the ACC, an outcome that would force him to give up his Dail seat under the rules set down by the 1992 Electoral Act, which forbids bankrupts from holding office.

The final breakdown in relations between the sides came last July, when the bank launched debt-collection proceedings in the High Court, having appointed receivers to three main assets in his construction group, M & J Wallace just three months earlier.

Speaking at the time, Mr Wallace claimed ACC moved in the receivers after giving him just 24 hours to repay €18.5m.

Upon the appointment of the receivers, Mr Wallace lost control of a large number of properties in his empire, including the restaurants in Dublin's Italian Quarter.

Mr Wallace -- who topped the poll in Wexford in last February's General Election -- is a director of more than a dozen companies that were worth €70m at the height of the boom.

Those companies and the assets underpinning them have since plummeted in value to €20m -- or just €1m more than the €19m Mr Wallace owes ACC alone.

Sunday Independent

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