Property developer reignites fraud battle with bank over Odyssey deal
Property developer Peter Curistan - who built Belfast's Odyssey entertainment complex - has reignited his legal battle against the former Anglo Irish Bank, claiming he was the victim of fraud.
The businessman is also suing the bank, now known as the Irish Bank Resolution Corporation, for breach of duty and negligence over finding a buyer for his long-term lease on the venue.
Mr Curistan has restarted the High Court case after securing the right to issue proceedings personally.
Previous litigation was brought in the name of Sheridan Millennium, a company he ran before it went into administration in 2011.
But earlier this year the administrator assigned over to him the firm's right to continue the action.
With the developer having also completed a period of bankruptcy, a similar assignment has been made by the trustee in that insolvency case.
Mr Curistan developed the Odyssey Pavilion before losing control of it to Anglo.
He has since been involved in a series of legal battles with the bank.
In one previous case a High Court judge drew attention to a so-called 'Golden Circle' arrangement where the bank loaned 10 of its clients €450m which they then used to buy shares in the bank.
The scheme was said to have been designed to prevent a large number of shares being sold on the open market which would have depressed the bank's value.
At that stage the judge said the transaction appeared to be "improper and unlawful".
Mr Curistan, who has also been awarded an honorary doctorate from Queen's University, Belfast and served as a Harbour Commissioner in the city, has now re-launched his case against Anglo.
Papers lodged in the case focus on claims around how the bank identified one of its clients as a potential purchaser for the leases in 2008-09.
It is alleged that the management of the process amounted to a "shadow directorship".
Other, better-placed potential purchasers were ignored, according to the case against the bank.
New allegations of fraud are understood to have been advanced following advice from senior counsel.
In court yesterday a barrister for the defendant questioned whether Mr Curistan can now amend his writ to include such claims.
Adrian Colmer said: "There's a very serious new allegation and I would ask for eight weeks to allow us to respond."
Mr Justice Weatherup agreed to adjourn the case for a further review in June.
However, he also directed that any objection to the fraud claim should be formalised before the end of this month.
Outside court Mr Curistan said he was pleased that his action was now up and running.
He added: "The allegations being made against Anglo Irish Bank, now IBRC in special liquidation, are extremely serious.
"They go to the heart of the bank's behaviour over a considerable period of time, and need to be fully investigated through the legal process which is now under way."
Born in west Belfast in 1955, Queen's University economics graduate Peter Curistan qualified as an accountant with Price Waterhouse in 1980. He spent two years in Hong Kong before returning to Belfast to set up a private accountancy. In 1989 he founded Sheridan Group and put up a cinema on Belfast's Dublin Road before turning his attention to property in Dublin.