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£8.5m loan appeal case put back by High Court

An appeal by property developer brothers against being made to pay a bank £8.5m in personal guarantees must be put back due to the "manifestly unsatisfactory" state of the case, a High Court judge directed today.

The challenge by Michael and John Taggart, whose house building empire collapsed in the property crash, was due to be heard next week.

But Mr Justice McCloskey took the case out of the lists after referring to its "troubled" history and criticising their "state of unreadiness".

He said: "The framework which prevailed at the (original) hearing before the Master is shifting and evolving and is still not complete."

In March it was ruled that the Taggarts were liable for two loans made before their business went into administration in 2008.

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

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

Much of the case centred on a dispute over whether or not these guarantees were temporary. The brothers argued they did not have the benefit of legal advice before they signed.

They lodged an appeal against the ruling, but during a review hearing counsel for Ulster Bank revealed that a new 156-page affidavit and documents have just been served by the Taggarts' legal representatives.

Mark Horner QC also claimed no explanation was given for an "eleventh hour" subpoena application for documentation held by the brothers' former solicitors.

He said: "It's been extremely difficult dealing with the shifting sands and various defences put forward.

"It really is unacceptable to serve 156 pages a week before the hearing and expect my client to be able to deal with it."

Counsel for the Taggarts insisted they wanted the appeal to go ahead and argued that most of the material was already known to the bank.

They argued that attempts to gain the documents sought from the law firm without issuing the subpoena had proved unsuccessful. The judge was told that the bank had also been late in disclosing some materials.

Following submissions Mr Justice McCloskey put the case in for another review later this month.

He said a decision would be taken at that stage whether to fix it for a hearing in September or remit it back to Master Bell.

Belfast Telegraph

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