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Separated couple must repay €8.8m loans to EBS

EBS is entitled to judgment of more than €8.8m against a couple who own a construction business over failure to repay three loans, the High Court ruled.

Mr Justice George Birmingham granted summary judgment for €8.8m against Kristine and William Campbell, who the judge noted, are estranged from one another. He rejected Mrs Campbell's claim that she entered into the loan agreements because of pressure from her husband.

The judge said that he was satisfied that the couple had not crossed the low threshold of establishing an arguable defence to EBS's application for judgment.

EBS sought the orders against both Mrs Campbell, Hybrasil Court, Circular Road, Galway, and her husband William, of Oldenway Business Park, Ballybrit, Galway, for €8.8m over their failure to repay three loans advanced between 2006 and 2008.

Difficulties developed in relation to the repayment of the loans and they failed to meet their repayment obligations.

EBS obtained a judgment for €8.8m against Mr Campbell from the Master of the High Court last year. That judgment was appealed to the High Court. EBS also sought judgment for a similar amount against Mrs Campbell.

Both claimed that they had arguable defences to the EBS's claim and the case should proceed to a full hearing.

Mr Campbell argued that he reached an agreement with the EBS in 2011 where the lender agreed not to take any further steps in relation to the loans for a period of years if additional security was provided in respect of their indebtedness.

As a result of this agreement, entered into with a senior manager with EBS, Mr Campbell claimed the EBS was not entitled to bring legal proceedings against him.

Mrs Campbell's defence to EBS's claim was she was a vulnerable person who had acted under the undue influence of her husband. The EBS, should have inquired into if she had exercised any independent judgment in relation to the loans, she further submitted.

She claimed that Mr Campbell had requested her to sign certain documents in respect of the loans saying "if you don't sign this we will lose everything,", had signed documents in a bid to save her marriage, and had no independent legal advice around the time the loans were obtained.

The EBS in seeking judgment said the couple had no arguable defences to the claim.

In his judgment, Mr Justice Birmingham said Mrs Campbell's assertions to the court were "quite surprising."

Documents from 2006 put before the court showed the couple had net assets of €77m. She was also the joint owner, with Mr Campbell of a great number of properties.

There was nothing to suggest she was coerced into a situation where the couple's financial affairs were conducted in a way that was oppressive to her. On the contrary the judge said it appeared she acquired "extensive property interests as a result of the couple's business activities." 

There was he said no evidence of undue influence, and there were no factors present in the loan agreements entered into by the Campbells that would have put the bank on inquiry.

The judge said that this was not a case of one spouse guaranteeing the debts of the other, or agreeing to a charge on the matrimonial home to support the business activities of the other.

Mrs Campbell, he said, was a 50 per cent shareholder of the company Kamar Construction Ltd which the defendants conducted their business. She had played a part in the business, be it a smaller one than her husband. 

In relation to Mr Campbell's appeal, the Judge said his claim that an agreement had been reached with the EBS was unstateable. From the evidence it was clear to the court that Mr Campbell had no case.

The proposed defence, as retired Supreme Court Justice Catherine McGuinness had said in another case, was "so far fetched and self-contradictory as not to be credible," Mr Justice Birmingham added.  

In the circumstances, the EBS's claims against both defendants succeeds, he said.

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