Friday 19 January 2018

Former Turk’s Head owner denies engaging in ‘extraordinary transactions’ with wife to avoid repaying €29m

Turk's Head bar in Temple Bar
Turk's Head bar in Temple Bar

Tim Healy

Businessman David Cullen, former owner of the Turk's Head Bar and Paramount Hotel in Dublin's Temple Bar, has denied he engaged in "extraordinary" transactions with his wife Mary to avoid repaying some €29m over loans since taken over by the National Assets Management Agency.

There was "nothing sinister" in his entering into contracts over six days between September 18th-24th 2009 to transfer 40 properties to his wife while he was disputing Bank of Ireland's claim he  was in default on his loans, he said. The contracts were discussed from December 2008, he insisted.

Mr Cullen agreed at the Commercial Court today he walked out of a meeting with Bank of Ireland in June 2009 after threatening he would see it "in court before Peter Kelly" after it warned about default on his loans and sought extra security.

He denied he took active steps after that meeting to transfer properties to his wife. He also rejected suggestions he had "heaped" his debts to his wife up to €10m so as to avoid having to pay his creditors.

Mr Cullen is being examined before Mr Justice Kelly about his assets as part of NAMA's efforts to enforce a €29m judgment obtained against him earlier this year arising from unpaid Bank of Ireland loans.

He agreed he had no explanation for a number of matters, including the absence of any documents prior to 2009 to support his claim loans advanced by his wife to him were made at a high rate of interest.

He agreed he completed the sale of lands to his wife for €275,000 in March 1998,  just hours before she sold them on for what Aidan Redmond SC, for NAMA, described as an "extraordinary windfall" of €4.6m.

Mr Cullen said he borrowed about €5.9m from his wife during 1998 and

1999 and his debt to her, with interest at high rates, was some €10m in September 2009. He had transferred several properties to her to reduce his debt.

He denied a suggestion he "simply didn't care" about "heaping" debts on himself to his wife because that would result in little money being available to repay NAMA or other creditors.

He had no explanation for why he consented to judgment orders for €3.7m in favour of his wife in 2011,  just two months after he had agreed with her his debt to her was some €2.2m.

He also said he had never repaid capital on any loans taken out bu him since he started in business 20 years ago.

NAMA obtained judgment against Mr Cullen last March over outstanding loans made for properties including the Turk's Head Bar and Paramount Hotel.

Mr Justice Kelly ruled Mr Cullen had advanced no grounds of defence and refused a stay on judgment pending any appeal.

NAMA opposed a stay on grounds including Mr Cullen had applied to be adjudicated a bankrupt in England.  NAMA objected to that bankruptcy application on grounds of its claim Mr Cullen's centre of main interest is Ireland, not England.

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