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'Unusual' demand made as developers return to court

The brothers behind a collapsed Ulster property empire are back in the High Court today as a judge calls for lawyers to hand over documents in an "unusual" court order.

Michael and John Taggart are being pursued for £8.5m worth of personal guarantees by Ulster Bank.

Last week, ahead of a review hearing set for today, Ferghal O'Loan and John-George Willis, partners in Tughans Solicitors who formerly acted for the Taggarts, were called on by Mr Justice Gillen to present copies of all correspondence and documents, including letters, emails, memos and notes on Tughans' files, either hard copy or electronic, touching on security documents relating to the purchase of a site in Kinsealy near Dublin in October 2006.

Also requested is any material on advice given to the defendants, the Taggarts, in relation to the signing of a personal guarantee in October 2006 and the retaking of the guarantee in October 2007, any advice given in relation to the retaking of the guarantee and correspondence between Tughans and Ulster Bank's legal team.

It is understood that such an order, called a 'Khanna subpoena', is "unusual" and is not served often in Northern Ireland.

A full hearing will take place next week.

In March it was ruled that Michael and John Taggart would be held to be liable for two loans made before their business went into administration in 2008.

In the High Court, Master Bell granted summary judgment to the Ulster Bank in two separate writs against the brothers for the sums of £5m and €4.3m (£3.5m).

Proceedings were brought over joint personal guarantees for borrowings by their companies, Taggart Holdings Ltd in Northern Ireland and Taggart Homes Ireland Ltd in the Republic.

The Taggarts are issuing a counter-claim, alleging that the personal guarantees are invalid. They are also seeking compensation against Ulster Bank, claiming they were not in breach of loan agreements when the bank moved to close down the group.

Taggart Holdings boasted a vast property empire across Ireland, north and south, in Great Britain and the Isle of Man. In 2007, Michael Taggart was named Ernst -amp; Young Entrepreneur of the Year. Property prices plunged as a result of the credit crunch and the firm went into administration in October 2008 when Ulster Bank and Bank of Ireland called in debts thought to be around £300m, much of which was owed to contractors and small businesses.