Thursday 22 August 2019

'AIB wants my house - it's the last thing I own'

Wallace tells of battle to hang on to family home and insists bankruptcy will not silence him on Project Eagle

Mick Wallace leaving a High Court Bankruptcy Court. Photo: Steve Humphreys
Mick Wallace leaving a High Court Bankruptcy Court. Photo: Steve Humphreys
Shane Phelan

Shane Phelan

Bankrupt politician Mick Wallace says his family home is "in jeopardy" with AIB seeking for him to surrender the property.

The TD, who ran a construction firm and owned bars, restaurants and an Italian vineyard before his business empire crumbled, said the house in Dublin's Fairview was the last remaining property he owns.

Mick Wallace’s house on Dublin’s Clontarf Road. Picture Credit : Frank McGrath
Mick Wallace’s house on Dublin’s Clontarf Road. Picture Credit : Frank McGrath

"AIB have the mortgage on that, so they want me out of the house," he said. "I want to stay in it. I built it in my spare time 25 years ago. It is that last thing I own at the moment."

The Wexford TD revealed the stark scenario he faces in an interview with the Irish Independent after he was adjudicated bankrupt with debts of more than €30m in the High Court yesterday.

He said AIB had yet to issue legal proceedings against him and he would have to wait and see what would happen now that his assets are under the control of Official Assignee Christopher Lehane, who heads up the Insolvency Service's bankruptcy division.

Mr Lehane will administer Mr Wallace's assets for at least the next 12 months and will decide what, if anything, can be sold for the benefit of creditors.

The Independents4Change TD has been heavily indebted for several years, with ACC securing a judgment for €20m against him in 2012.

However, none of his creditors moved to bankrupt him until last month when Promontoria (Aran) Ltd, a subsidiary of vulture fund Cerberus, made an application to the High Court.

Read more: Mick Wallace: Bankruptcy will not silence me about Project Eagle

Mr Wallace has been a fierce critic of Cerberus's purchase of Nama's northern loan portfolio, Project Eagle, for €1.6bn in 2014.

He revealed in the Dáil last year how a stg£7m payment linked to the deal had been discovered in an Isle of Man bank account,

Mr Wallace said the money was supposedly earmarked for a Northern Ireland politician or party. The claim helped spark inquiries by the UK's National Crime Agency and the US Securities and Exchange Commission.

It would subsequently emerge a former Nama adviser in the North had sought a multi-million pound payment from a prospective bidder, in the event of it succeeding in buying the portfolio. But the bidder pulled out amid concerns over the former advisor's activities.

The Dáil Public Accounts Committee (PAC) has also been inquiring into the deal in recent months.

When the bankruptcy application was initially moved, Mr Wallace claimed Cerberus was seeking to "settle a score" with him, an accusation the fund has declined to comment on.

He reiterated the claim yesterday, but said he would not be silenced and would continue raising the issue in the Dáil.

"It is fairly obvious as to why I am here. Speaking truth to power is a dangerous game," he said.

"They don't like the way I have exposed their role in Project Eagle, which has left a lot to be desired.

"I am not sure how the PAC are going to deal with it, but I certainly won't be staying silent.

"We have a lot of work to do in making sure the truth comes out and Cerberus remain in a situation where they have serious questions left to answer.

"It is not without cause that the whole thing is being investigated by the National Crime Agency and the Securities and Exchange Commission in America."

Mr Wallace also took aim at the State's personal insolvency legislation, which he said did little for people in his situation as banks retained a veto on any potential debt deal.

He said he had approached both ACC and AIB in the hope of getting their support for a proposal, but neither was interested.

"It goes to show that (former Justice Minister Alan) Shatter was wasting his time coming up with this personal-insolvency process when he gave the banks a veto.

"The whole idea was to give people a chance, people who were in trouble with banks, to find a different path out of it, rather than bankruptcy.

"But giving the banks a veto, you might as well have binned the legislation there and then."

Irish Independent

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