Monday 11 December 2017

Nama is slammed over legal action against widow

Annette De Vere Hunt and her daughter Alison with John McGuinness, chairman of the PAC
Annette De Vere Hunt and her daughter Alison with John McGuinness, chairman of the PAC
Shane Phelan

Shane Phelan

The National Asset Management Agency (Nama) is pressing ahead with a legal action against the widow of a farmer who took his own life.

The move has been criticised by the Dáil's spending watchdog, with TDs agreeing to write to Nama to express concern.

The agency's case against Annette De Vere Hunt is proceeding after a mediation process broke down.

Last December she gave compelling evidence at a private session of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) about how her husband, Philip De Vere Hunt (64), took his life in 2012, after Nama brought a case against him over a €30m loan.

"Within weeks of that meeting with us, papers were served on her late at night, thrown into the reception area of her home as though they were served," PAC chairman John McGuinness said yesterday.

Mr McGuinness said Mrs De Vere Hunt was given an opportunity to attend a mediation meeting with Nama, but soon afterwards the agency decided to proceed to court.

"I think it is just unacceptable that a State body would behave in that way," he said.

At last December's hearing, Mrs De Vere Hunt told the committee her husband was badly treated by Nama.

He and a business partner were being pursued over borrowings from AIB towards the development of a shopping centre in Clonmel, Co Tipperary.

Ashes

She said her husband's dealings with the agency had brought him "to the end of his tether".

Nama has now launched High Court proceedings against Mrs De Vere Hunt and her son Robert which could see them lose the family farm where her husband's ashes are scattered.

Mr McGuinness said "nothing but trauma and sadness" was being heaped on Mrs De Vere Hunt.

He said it was "a case of the State at war with a citizen".

Another committee member, Fine Gael TD Gabrielle McFadden, said she was disgusted by the development.

"That is not good enough," she said.

Sinn Féin's Mary Lou McDonald, who is also a member of the PAC, said the committee had been led to believe mediation was Nama's first preference in every set of circumstances.

She described Mr McGuinness's account of events as "quite shocking". "I think it extraordinary that they would act in the way that you have described," she said.

Dispute

In a statement to the Irish Independent, Nama said the proceedings mentioned at the committee were issued in early December and that it considered the matters in dispute to be sub judice.

"At no stage did Nama give a commitment or indication to the PAC or any other forum that it was prepared to re-enter mediation in either of these cases," the statement said.

"Nama did indicate it was always open to constructive engagement to resolve disputes. Nama's statutory obligation is to maximise the repayment of debts owed to it."

The statement said Nama was not free to discuss matters relating to individual debtors due to legislation enacted by the Oireachtas.

Irish Independent

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