Belfast Telegraph

Building tycoon Michael Taggart not warned firm's cheques would bounce, court told

By Alan Erwin

Former housebuilding tycoon Michael Taggart was never warned before company cheques for more than £300,000 were bounced, he told the High Court.

The businessman also claimed he could easily have sold off sites in Northern Ireland and England if alerted to bank concerns about his firm's financial status.

He said in mid-2007 the Taggart Group had assets in the region of £600m, compared with debts of around £245m.

Together with his brother John, the Co Derry man is locked in a multi-million pound legal battle with the Ulster Bank. The Taggarts are seeking tens of millions of pounds in damages for alleged negligence and improper conduct they say contributed to the destruction of their property empire.

From being one one of Northern Ireland's largest companies, with operations across the UK and Republic of Ireland, the company was decimated by the 2007 property crash. It eventually went into administration a year later.

In a counterclaim, the bank has lodged writs for £5m and €4.3m it alleges the brothers owe in personal guarantees over land purchases in Kinsealy, north Co Dublin and in Northern Ireland.

Central to the Taggarts' case is an allegation that the bank failed to properly warn them of concerns about the financial status of their business at the time.

During day three of the case counsel for the Taggarts, Gerald Simpson QC, examined emails and documentation from 2007.

By July 2007 the Republic's housing market was reported to be already in decline, the court heard.

But Mr Taggart recalled property prices still being strong in Northern Ireland and England.Asked whether he could have disposed of assets there if required, he told the court: "Absolutely no difficulty, using any one of a number of methods."

The hearing continues.

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