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Mick Wallace: Bankruptcy will not silence me about Nama's Project Eagle

TD Mick Wallace has said his bankruptcy, forced by a petition from vulture fund Cerberus, will not stop him speaking out about its controversial purchase of a major Nama portfolio.

Mr Wallace was adjudicated bankrupt in the High Court this morning with debts of over €30m following an application from Cerberus subsidiary Promontoria (Aran) Ltd.

The Independents4Change TD ended his fight to avoid bankruptcy after another major creditor, ACC, said it would not facilitate him in coming to a personal insolvency arrangement.

Speaking to Independent.ie afterwards, Mr Wallace said he would not be stopped from criticising the purchase by Cerberus of Nama’s Northern Ireland loans portfolio, Project Eagle, for €1.6bn in 2014.

Mr Wallace raised concerns about a Stg£7m payment related to the deal in the Dáil last summer and matters are now being probed by the UK’s National Crime Agency and the US Securities and Exchange Commission

“I am going to continue what I am doing for the moment,” he said.

He added: “It is fairly obvious as to why I am here. Speaking truth to power is a dangerous game.

“They don’t like the way I have exposed their role in Project Eagle, which has left a lot to be desired.”

Mr Wallace also hit out at insolvency legislation, which allows creditors owed €3m or more veto attempts by a debtor to come to a personal insolvency arrangement.

“We argued at the time the legislation was introduced that it was a pointless exercise if you give the banks a veto,” he said.

“The whole idea was to give people a chance, people who were in trouble with banks, to find a different path out of it, rather than bankruptcy.

“But giving the banks a veto, you might as well have binned the legislation there and then.”

The heavily indebted Wexford politician was forced into bankruptcy after Promontoria (Aran) Ltd filed a petition against him last month.

The company already had a €2m judgment against him arising from loans issued by Ulster Bank to Mr Wallace’s M&J Wallace construction firm. Cerberus bought the loan book these were in three years ago.

Mr Wallace arrived in court today for a brief hearing, accompanied by his solicitor Aidan Eames.

Ms Justice Caroline Costello was told James Green, a personal insolvency practitioner with McCambridge Duffy, had written to Mr Wallace’s main creditors, AIB, ACC and Cerberus.

The court heard that ACC was “the dominant creditor” and, under personal insolvency laws, would have to give consent to any personal insolvency arrangement proposed by Mr Wallace as his debts with the financial institution were greater that €3m.

However, Mr Wallace’s counsel, Keith Farry BL, said ACC had written back to say it was not willing “to waive the €3m cap”.

This effectively meant Mr Wallace could not proceed with a personal insolvency arrangement.

ACC got a judgment against Mr Wallace for €20m in 2012, but has not sought to enforce it.

Mr Farry said he had considered getting a protective certificate, which blocks creditors from moving against debtors for 70 days.

However, he said this option was not being pursued as there was “no reality” to it.

“From my point of view I cannot put up any further resistance,” he said.

“I cannot see how we can come to a personal insolvency arrangement.”

Eddie Farrelly BL, counsel for Cerberus subsidiary Promontoria (Aran) Ltd, said Mr Wallace’s debts were “in excess of €30m”.

“There is not much prospect of an arrangement,” he said.

A copy of Mr Wallace’s statement of affairs was handed into the court, as well as a letter written by Mr Green.

Having considered the documentation and the submissions from barristers, Ms Justice Costello said she was adjudicating Mr Wallace a bankrupt.

It means that for a period of at least 12 months all of his assets will be in the control of the Official Assignee, Christopher Lehane, who can seek to sell them to realise whatever value he can for creditors.

The bankruptcy will not effect on Mr Wallace's seat as the law disqualifying a bankrupt from being a member of the Dáil was abolished in 2014.

Independent.ie

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