Friday 15 December 2017

Wallace fights to keep home and stave off bankruptcy

Mick Wallace TD Picture: Tom Burke
Mick Wallace TD Picture: Tom Burke
Shane Phelan

Shane Phelan

TD Mick Wallace is fighting to keep his family home and is examining alternatives to bankruptcy, the High Court has heard.

The Independents4Change TD has hired a personal insolvency practitioner to write to AIB to see if the family home can be kept.

He is also in the process of drafting a statement of affairs, which will be given to the court later this month. Mr Wallace is expected to fight efforts by vulture fund Cerberus to have him declared bankrupt.

The bankruptcy petition was filed by one of its Irish subsidiaries, Promontoria (Aran) Ltd.

Mr Wallace has been the foremost critic of the deal through which Cerberus bought Nama's Northern Ireland loans portfolio Project Eagle for €1.6bn in 2014.

The vulture fund also acquired loans Mr Wallace's construction firm M&J Wallace had with Ulster Bank the same year as part of a wider Irish portfolio, known as Project Aran.

The loans were backed by personal guarantees, leaving Mr Wallace liable.

Promontoria (Aran) Ltd subsequently secured a judgment for €2m against him last January and issued the bankruptcy proceedings against him in November.

When the matter returned to the High Court yesterday, Ms Justice Caroline Costello was told by Keith Farry BL, for Mr Wallace, that the TD was seeking an adjournment to allow for time to engage with a personal insolvency practitioner.

Mr Farry said the insolvency practitioner had written to AIB to see if Mr Wallace's family home can be retained.

AIB is not party to the proceedings, but the bank holds the mortgage charge over Mr Wallace's home in Dublin.

Mr Farry said a response from AIB is expected before the next court date on December 19.

Mr Wallace also intends to have a statement of affairs ready at that stage.

There was no objection from Eddie Farrelly BL, for Promontoria (Aran) Ltd, to the adjournment.

Mr Wallace would not lose his Dáil seat if declared a bankrupt.

It is understood Mr Wallace is examining three possible avenues to avoid bankruptcy.

These are mounting a legal challenge, negotiating a deal with Cerberus, or examining whether some arrangement can be drafted by the personal insolvency practitioner.

Mr Wallace's combative approach to Cerberus could be an impediment to any deal being reached at this stage.

After Promontoria (Aran) Ltd issued the bankruptcy proceedings, Mr Wallace claimed Cerberus was "settling scores".

The Project Eagle deal has been mired in controversy since Mr Wallace revealed in the Dáil last summer that Stg£7m in fees linked to the purchase ended up in an Isle of Man bank account, triggering a probe by the UK's National Crime Agency and scrutiny from the US Securities and Exchange Commission.

Irish Independent

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