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Businessman owing €29m transferred dozens of properties to wife, NAMA tells court

NAMA has claimed a businessman it is pursuing for more than €29m has transferred or charged more than 40 properties to his wife and others.

David Cullen, who petitioned for bankruptcy in the UK earlier this month, is disputing NAMA's entitlement to security over properties, the Commercial Court also heard today.

Mr Cullen, formerly of Claremont Road, Carrickmines, Dublin but now living in London, also claims the court has no jurisdiction to deal with the proceedings issued against him last October by National Assets Management Ltd, a NAMA company.

Mr Justice Peter Kelly has adjourned to January 23 NALM's application to fast-track its case for €29m summary judgment orders against Mr Cullen in the Commercial Court.

Mr Cullen could bring any application challenging the court's jurisdiction on that same date although he faced "an uphill battle" in that regard in circumstances where the loans were issued under contracts in Ireland for properties in Ireland, the judge remarked.

The case relates to loans facilities held by Mr Cullen with Bank of Ireland from 2002 which were transferred to NAMA in 2010. The loans were issued for several purposes, including development of the Turks Head bar and the Paramount Hotel in Temple Bar, Dublin, and the Seafield Hotel and apartments at Seafield, Ballymoney, Co Wexford.

Maurice Collins SC, for NALM, said today that Bank of Ireland and later NALM had made efforts to engage with Mr Cullen from 2009. Mr Cullen was slow to engage, had raised issues about the basis on which the bank was seeking to engage with him and had walked out of meetings, counsel said.

After NAMA had rejected a business plan advanced by Mr Cullen, the bank issued a formal demand on June 26, 2012, for repayment on behalf of NALM, counsel said.

In an affidavit, NALM said, while it was involved in considering Mr Cullen's business plan, it became concerned at actions taken by him which had the effect of moving assets beyond the bank's reach.

It said it had learned Mr Cullen had transferred or charged over 40 properties to his wife and other third parties, including the Seafield Hotel and the Temple Bar properties.

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Mr Cullen had also granted leases over the Temple Bar properties and the Seafield hotel to operating companies without the consent of either Bank of Ireland or NALM, it said.

Mr Collins said it was not correct to argue this action was intended as a springboard for other cases. Any other proceedings against Mr Cullen or his wife were "for another day" and the issue in this case was that the loans remained unpaid, he said.

Martin Hayden SC, for Mr Cullen, said he was contesting the court's jurisdiction to hear the case on grounds his client was living in the UK and had applied for bankruptcy there with the matter due for hearing in May next. He also argued delay by NALM in bringing the case disentitled it to have the case fast-tracked.

Mr Cullen also contended the bank had no security over certain assets, counsel said. He wanted time to outline matters on affidavit.

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