Belfast Telegraph

Bankrupt developer Curistan joins campaign against banks

By Clare Weir

Bankrupt Belfast property developer Peter Curistan is among a number of Northern Ireland business people supporting the setting up of a local pressure group against mis-selling by banks.

Mr Curistan developed the Odyssey Pavilion complex in east Belfast but lost control of it to the former Anglo Irish Bank, now Irish Bank Resolution Corporation (IBRC), with which he has been involved in a series of legal tussles in recent years.

Mr Curistan, bankrupted four days before Christmas, was suing the bank alleging fraudulent misrepresentation and negligence over the process to find a buyer for his long-term lease on the Pavilion. He is now getting behind the Bully-Banks campaign, a UK-wide organisation created in 2011 to co-ordinate complaints by the owners of small and medium sized businesses against banks.

The banks are accused by businesses of failing to warn them of potential risks and exit costs of very complex financial products, mostly sold at the banks' instigation and often as a condition of continued borrowing.

The Bully-Banks campaign has been successful in getting the Financial Services Authority (the FSA) to conduct a review of the banks' sale of Interest Rate Swap Agreements (IRSAs) to small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).

Up to 2,000 small businesses in Northern Ireland still wait for justice in their claims of bank mis-selling - despite a rescue plan announced by the FSA last June.

Now a conference next month is inviting businesses here to step up their fight against the high street banks.

Mr Curistan said that IRSA mis-selling could be an even bigger scandal than the Payment Protection Insurance debacle.

He said: "I went to a Bully-Banks meeting in Colchester two months ago and am in no doubt that the issues we face here with the Irish banks are just as bad as what is happening in the UK. We're looking at getting businesses, specialist solicitors and even politicians for a question and answer session and to let people know what support and advice is available to them.

"This is not just a case of multi-millionaires, there are normal people, publicans, hoteliers, shop-keepers, who are suffering at the hands of the banks."

The conference takes place on February 1 at Belvoir Golf Club, Belfast (tickets £30). Register at membership@bully-banks.co.uk.

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