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NAMA fights to block court protection for fuel company that owes €53m

NAMA is opposing continued High Court protection for a fuel company which owes it around €53m.

The agency is concerned about a number of matters including the "moral integrity" of Tougher's Oil Distributors Ltd's petition for protection, the court heard.

NAMA is the largest creditor of Tougher, with registered offices at Naas, Co Kildare, a wholesale oil distributor operating fuel stations in Counties Carlow, Kildare, Offaly and Wicklow and employing 140.

Lyndon MacCann SC, for NAMA company, the National Asset Loan Management Ltd (NALM), told Mr Justice Brian McGovern today he was opposing a petition to confirm Michael McAteer of accountancy firm Grant Thornton as examiner.

He was appointed interim examiner late last month when the company secured court protection.

Aidan Redmond SC, for the company, said it had just received a detailed report from accountancy firm Hughes Blake on behalf of NALM which his side needed time to respond to. He might seek to cross-examine in relation to that and, in all those circumstances, wanted an adjournment of the hearing.

Counsel for Bank of Scotland and the Revenue Commissioners both said their clients were "guardedly neutral" about the petition.

Mr MacCann said the matter was "extremely urgent" as NALM had concerns about the moral integrity of the petition and how it had proceeded and also had concerns about potential diversion of monies by the company prior to examinership.

NALM was concerned about possible prioritising of payments to other creditors ahead of it, he said.

He believed no order should have been made appointing the interim examiner last month without his client having been heard, counsel added.

NALM had concerns costs were being incurred in the examinership to its detriment and was anxious such costs and fees should be at the sole risk of the petitioner and not be automatically paid out of the examinership.

Rossa Fanning, for the interim examiner, said he was instructed no payments as referred to had been issued and he had no instructions it was ever intended to issue such payments. The interim examiner was not presenting a report today but he was instructed four expressions of interest had been received, counsel added.

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Mr Justice McGovern said, as the very appointment of the interim examiner was being questioned, he would order payments which would have the effect of prioritising other creditors ahead of NALM should not be made. The matter was urgent and he would list it for hearing next Thursday.

When Mr McAteer was appointed interim examiner last month, the court was told Tougher's ran into difficulties as a consequence of using its surplus cash to make several property investments during the economic boom. A lot of those properties had since gone into NAMA.

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