Business Irish

Tuesday 12 December 2017

Dutch authorities probe RBS over Irish banker's €4.9m Amsterdam house

John Hourican: bought property in prestigious area
John Hourican: bought property in prestigious area
Mark Keenan

Mark Keenan

ROYAL Bank of Scotland (RBS) says it is co-operating with Dutch authorities investigating the bank's €4.9m purchase of a house from top Irish banker John Hourican in 2009.

Mr Hourican, a Dubliner, stepped down as head of the UK state-owned bank's global capital markets arm last month in the wake of the Libor rigging scandal.

He was not implicated in the interest-rate manipulation but took the fall as the executive in overall charge of the division of RBS that was involved.

Now it's a €4.9m sale of Mr Hourican's former home that is being looked at by the Dutch authorities.

Questions have been raised in the Netherlands over the true value of the property at the time when it was sold to his empl-oyer, RBS, in 2009.

Mr Hourican had bought the former residence of the late Wim Duisenberg, a prominent Dutch politician and the first head of the European Central Bank, for €4.7m in 2007, when he was transferred by RBS to work as CFO of ABN Amro, a Dutch bank that had been bought by his employer.

In 2009, after the bank had recalled Mr Hourican to London, the home was sold to RBS for €4.9m.

RBS placed it on the market soon afterwards for €3.9m and tried to sell the property over a period of years.

However, it remained unsold, despite the fact that it's location on Amsterdam's Diepenbrockstraat, one of the capital's most sought-after and prestigious residential addresses.

The bank eventually offloaded it in 2011 for a price that has since been reported as €3.25m in the Dutch press.

A spokesman for RBS told the Irish Independent: "We are not prepared to comment, other than to state that we are respectful of the investigation by the Dutch authorities and are co-operating fully with it."

Mr Hourican was not available for comment but his spokesman told this newspaper that he had lost money on the Dutch property.

"John bought the house and spent a lot of money on it, including stamp duty and the cost of refurbishment," said the spokesman.

"He was only living there a short time when the bank asked him to move again, this time back to London.

"It had been a standard term of practice for the bank to compensate employees for the cost and inconvenience of having to move like this.

"When it came to the valuation of the property, the bank employed three independent valuers, as was its standard practice, and it accepted the mid-ranging version. At the end of the day, it is worth noting that he still lost money on the sale."

Market value

A spokesman for the Dutch tax authorities added: "We cannot comment on individual cases as this is against the law, but generally speaking a house which sells above what would appear to be the standard market value does not escape our attention and is something that we will tend to investigate."

Since selling the Dutch property, Mr Hourican bought a luxury home in Dublin 4, on Ailesbury Road, for €4.625m in 2011 and he is now based back in Dublin.

Critics of his resignation in the UK have asserted that Mr Hourican was unfairly sacrificed in order to protect board members.

They argue that the Libor offences were committed before his appointment and without his knowledge and that he had done a good job of getting RBS back into shape.

Irish Independent

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