'AIB tried to serve a summons on my mother, 80, as she left Mass'
Former minister, bookie and broadcaster, who went bankrupt in UK on Friday, accuses AIB of setting out to make an example of him
AT 10.07am last Friday, Ivan Yates was officially declared bankrupt by district court judge Peter Llewelyn at the county court in the Welsh seaside town of Swansea, the place he has called home since last April.
Mr Yates's successful petition for bankruptcy, in which he described himself in court papers as a "retired businessman and author" -- as opposed to the former Fine Gael government minister, bookmaker or radio presenter the Irish people have known and admired for years -- will come as a surprise to some but not to others.
Having failed in its application to the High Court in Dublin on August 21 last to have the former Celtic Bookmakers' chief declared a bankrupt here, arising out of a €3.69m debt that AIB claims he owes them, the bank will be frustrated, to say the least, to see him slip free from its net.
Yesterday, Ivan Yates spoke exclusively to the Sunday Independent over the phone from his apartment in Swansea about his decision to bring down the final curtain on his life in business, politics and the media.
In a wide-ranging interview -- which he insisted would be his first and his last on the matter -- he took aim at both AIB and his former colleagues in the current Fine Gael-led Government.
Clearly upset and annoyed by what has befallen him, Mr Yates began by confirming the details of his UK bankruptcy, saying: "A hearing took place in Swansea yesterday (Friday).
"We furnished evidence that I have had links with Swansea since 2004. The head office of Celtic UK bookmakers is located here, I rent an apartment and my son went to Swansea university. Since April 9 I have been resident here and the court decided I was eligible to avail of the UK personal-bankruptcy regime."
Asked about his decision to avail of the UK's more lenient bankruptcy regime -- where individuals typically receive a clean bill of financial health after just 12 months, Mr Yates said: "I will be an economic zombie for a year. All my assets are forfeit and put in the hands of the court receiver. For a further two years after the initial year, the court takes all money I earn beyond reasonable living expenses.
"It is extremely difficult and lonely and it's enormously upsetting for my entire family, my siblings, my wife Deirdre and our children."
Asked why he had made such a drastic move, given the level of upset it had caused to him and his family, Mr Yates put the blame squarely on the shoulders of AIB over its pursuit of him for the €3.69m it claims that he owes.
"They refused to stop the debt clock on my loans when the company went into receivership and they made my position impossible. I would have had to earn over €8,000 a week to simply pay the interest on my outstanding loans. Even if I worked for another 10 years, I'd still be a serf to the bank."
Responding to AIB's efforts to have him adjudged a bankrupt in Ireland last month, Mr Yates claimed in an affidavit to the High Court that the bank had pursued him out of a "sense of vindictiveness and a desire to make an example of me as a high-profile individual".
Sensationally, he also claimed that the bank's officials had told him that were he to receive a debt write-off, it would set a precedent, which, if applied to AIB's Irish loan book would "close down the country".
Of his own decision to leave the country, he continued: "I was essentially forced to quit my work and flee the country. The stress of trying to maintain my media career and conduct my affairs proved almost impossible. I was forced to dislocate myself from my family, isolate myself from my friends and move over here."
The traditional stigma surrounding bankruptcy is also clearly affecting him.
"I am now mentioned in the same breath as Sean Quinn, Sean FitzPatrick and Tom McFeely, despite the fact that I have had no findings made against me in company law, no absence of compliance with company law or the Revenue, no false accounting. I owe nobody outside of AIB and one person, a landlady, with whom I am in dispute.
"AIB have harassed and intimidated me and my family since April. When I left Newstalk on Thursday the 3rd of April, the following day, on Good Friday the 4th of April, they tried to serve a summons on my 80-year-old mother as she was leaving Mass."
Mindful that his bankruptcy would still be seen by some as an attempt to evade a responsibility to repay his debts, he said: "I have not invested in property. I don't even have a second home. I have more of a brown ale than a Bollinger lifestyle.
"These were corporate loans they expected me to pay out of personal assets. I haven't taken any salary from the company since 2008. The most I took prior to that was €25,000 a year. When the liquidators moved in, I could have taken €161,000 the company owed me in loans."
Commenting on his immediate future, he said: "I will now enter into a hazardous process with the UK insolvency service that will liquidate my assets in a fire sale. As of 10.07am yesterday, I forfeited all my assets -- the farm, even the family home is still very much in jeopardy.
"It's like an open prison, it debars you from doing all the things you'd like to do, your economic liberty is gone and you are an economic zombie.
"But for the foreseeable future, I cannot see any opportunities in Ireland. I have no plans to return to Ireland. I have switched off completely from Irish current affairs.
"I cannot return to media work because I was self-employed with my own company and now, in the wake of the bankruptcy decision, I am disqualified from having my own company. Like a lot of others, I face early retirement."
In what political observers will see as a proverbial shot across the bows of the current Government, Mr Yates accused his former colleagues of now being held in the "iron grip" of the country's bailed-out banks
"In my view, the biggest vested interest in this country is the banks. They have taken an iron grip on the Government to such an extent they will stymie any attempts at reform. The banks have lobbied successfully to stop real changes. They want to scare the bejaysus out of debtors and reduce them to a lifetime of serfdom -- and it's working.
"In my despairing situation, I'm not going to lecture people but I'm sufficiently cynical to take the view that the only core value of the Irish establishment is their own survival on a day-to-day basis and the prolongation of their careers. Their ethos is 'live now and let the future look after itself'."
On the banks, he added: "The banks and others are maintaining that some day, somehow clients will be able to magic up money out of some place to pay their debts. But eventually it will dawn on the investing institutions and the ECB that this is not going to happen. Until there is an end game to the tsunami of personal and other debt, the country will continue, the banks will continue, to live on a hand-to-mouth basis until there is a rational policy of debt settlement.
"For us, the day of reckoning has come but for others -- the 15,000 entrepreneurs, the 150,000 mortgage holders in arrears -- the treadmill will go on and on."
In what will not necessarily be good news to some, however, he confirmed that he intends as part "of the healing process" to write a book.
"I hope to have it completed in a year. It will be about politics, the Celtic Tiger, business, rogues and characters. You know, I shared an office with Enda Kenny for 10 years. There will be lots about politicians in it. There will be fun and humour too."