Sunday 17 November 2019

Anglo offered developer nearly €1m to wind up firm

LOUISE McBRIDE and NICK WEBB

Curistan was 'shocked' by proposal

ANGLO Irish Bank, now the Irish Bank Resolution Corporation (IBRC), offered a financial "incentive" to a well-known property developer in Northern Ireland to wind up one of his companies, according to court documents seen by the Sunday Independent.

The payment was offered in February 2009 to Peter Curistan, one of the key players behind the Odyssey development in Belfast's docks.

Curistan said that Anglo offered him between stg£500,000 (€559,000) and stg£750,000 (€839,000) back then to wind up his company, Sheridan Millennium, according to the court transcripts.

Curistan did not accept Anglo's offer.

Details of the incentive offered to Curistan were heard in a High Court case taken by the IBRC against Cambourne Investments, Century City Limited and Peter Curistan. The court proceedings for the case began last March and the hearing lasted for 14 days. During the court proceedings, a former director of lending with Anglo confirmed that the bank had offered a payment to Curistan to wind up Sheridan Millennium -- but did not confirm the amount offered.

The former Anglo director explained that he made the offer as it would make financial sense for the bank to have Sheridan Millennium wound up. Anglo had previously agreed to support creditors of Sheridan Millennium to the tune of €3m. To save the €3m in creditor funding, Anglo considered it in the bank's interest to talk to Mr Curistan about the possibility of him voluntarily winding up Sheridan Millennium.

"In financial terms, it would have been obviously better for the bank [to have Millennium wound up] because they were going to pay €3m to his [Curistan's] creditors," said the former Anglo executive. "It was a price for him [Curistan] to exit voluntarily."

The High Court judge, Justice Charleton, asked Anglo why it was necessary to pay Curistan anything to wind up Sheridan Millennium.

"The normal rule in corporate law is, there is no cakes and ale except for the benefit of the corporation," said Justice Charleton. "The normal rule in corporate law -- Anglo is a corporation -- the corporation is not entitled to spend money on anything which doesn't give the corporation a benefit or a potential benefit. It includes, in terms of commerce, that a corporation doesn't have the capacity to simply give away money.

"I still can't understand why you would actually pay money, three-quarters of a million pounds, that's nearly €1m, to Mr Curistan for his back pocket. I appreciate it is less than the €3m you would lend to him for the purpose of dealing with his creditors so that Sheridan Millennium would be able to carry on for a time until you could get an orderly takeover. Windups cause loss to creditors."

Curistan told the Sunday Independent that he was "shocked" to receive the offer.

IBRC declined to comment.

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