Sunday 18 August 2019

La Stampa owner didn't tell bank about his €1.5m Costa penthouse

'The case resumes before Mr Justice David Barniville on Tuesday.' Stock Image
'The case resumes before Mr Justice David Barniville on Tuesday.' Stock Image

Tim Healy

Former La Stampa restaurant owner Louis Murray has denied in the High Court he tried to deceive a bank he owed €19.8m to by not telling it he had a "stunning penthouse apartment" in Marbella, on Spain's Costa del Sol.

The apartment was worth €1.5m but he said he was forced to sell it at less than half that after his income was stopped, following his company going into receivership, in order to pay for basic necessities.

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He was continuing to be cross- examined in his case against AIB and receiver Declan McDonald, claiming breach of an agreement to settle his debt through the "consensual sale" of his restaurant, bar and hotel business in Dawson Street, Dublin. The defendants deny the claims.

Before resuming his evidence yesterday, Mr Murray also confirmed an apology his lawyer made to the court on his behalf on Thursday for calling the receiver "a thug", among other things.

He told Lyndon MacCann SC, for the bank and the receiver, that before the receivership led to the freezing of his deposit account, he had a €150,000 loan from his company, Bailieboro Springwater, in receivership, from which he paid himself €75,000 and €75,000 to his partner, Cristina Petrar.

But when his funds were stopped he said he went to the ATM "and there was nothing". His electricity was cut off and he was having implant treatment for cancer in the Blackrock Clinic which he was unable to pay for.

He said he immediately went to Spain where he sold the Marbella apartment. He said this was his family's second home, bought for cash in 1996, and it was sold for what was effectively €1m less than its valuation after taxes.

Asked by Mr MacCann why he did not tell the bank in October 2014, when it sought details of his assets and liabilities, about that "trophy apartment", Mr Murray said he did not feel it was his, but a family asset. He had made arrangements to have it put into a trust for his children but had not executed those arrangements due to his illness, he said.

Mr Murray also said he had two apartments in Romania. He had originally bought four apartments there but had given two of them to Cristina.

His other assets were what he described as his "wonderful" home in Killiney, Dublin, and an adjoining 4.5-acre site which, with planning permission, is currently worth up to €8.5m, he said.

His relationship manager in AIB offered him a loan based on that equity of €1m "at an extraordinary interest rate" of just 0.05pc, he said.

He used some of that €1m to pay €350,000 towards the purchase of his daughter Samantha's home while he thought he gave €150,000 or €200,000 to his other daughter Sara for her home, though he was not sure about the figure.

He agreed that although he said Cristina Petrar was 50pc owner of his assets, in fact title to the properties was in his name.

Asked why he included in his assets his Killiney home, which he also planned to leave in a trust for his children, but not Marbella, he said the simple answer was he didn't know but there was "no intentional deceit".

He was "fully convinced AIB were fully aware of it because it appeared in the newspapers when I loaned it to people in the newspapers to use it for a holiday".

Mr MacCann put to him that in 2014, he was deceiving AIB with a view to buying time when he told the bank his entire asset value was just €1m, based on the then outstanding equity in his home.

Mr Murray said he had "never deceived anyone in my life" and while it might be reasonable to suggest it from the bank's perspective, it was not his intention.

The case resumes before Mr Justice David Barniville on Tuesday.

Irish Independent

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