Belfast Telegraph

Ulster Bank boss admits 'serious omission' for not alerting Taggart brothers to changed repayment arrangements, court hears

By Alan Erwin

Not alerting property developers Michael and John Taggart to changed arrangements for repaying a multi-million euro borrowings was a "serious omission", an Ulster Bank boss told a court today.

Gary Barr accepted the brothers were not personally informed back in late 2006 about an alteration to the loan facility.

His confirmation came as a legal battle between the Taggarts and the bank continued at the High Court in Belfast.

The brothers are suing for alleged negligence and improper conduct which they say contributed to the fall of their house-building empire.

At one stage the Taggart Group had been a massive operation with developments on both sides of the Irish border, Britain and further interests in the United States.

But it was decimated when the property market crashed in 2007. A year later the company went into administration.

The brothers, from Co Derry, claim they were kept in the dark about credit concerns within the bank.

Had they been warned, they contend, assets could have been sold to off-set loans.

In a counterclaim, Ulster Bank is seeking £5million (sterling) and 4.3 million euros it says the Taggarts owe in personal guarantees over land purchases in Kinsealy, north Co Dublin and in Northern Ireland.

Mr Barr was part of the bank's relationship management team dealing with the Taggart account prior to the firm's collapse.

Under cross-examination by Gerald Simpson QC, for the brothers, he was questioned today about lending arrangements linked to the Kinsealy scheme.

The court heard how, by November 2006, there had been a change to the method of repayment.

Asked if there are any documents to show the brothers were informed at the time, Mr Barr said the only letter he had seen was from July 2007.

Mr Simpson put it to him: "May the court take it you never had it explained to you that if you're going to change the methodology of payment with respect to a borrowing facility you should tell the guarantors?"

The banker replied: "I can't recall training of that nature before this point."

During exchanges he was pressed on his assessment of the scale of the alleged oversight.

Mr Barr insisted that the guarantors were "fully involved" with the company.

But according to Mr Simpson it was fundamental that the Taggarts should have been warned of the changes, given they faced a 4.3 million euro personal obligation.

"Do you accept it's a very serious omission?" he asked.

Mr Barr answered: "I accept it's a serious omission."

"So the only word we are arguing about is 'very'," the barrister responded.

Mr Barr added that he believed no further discussions took place on that point about the repayment method during the rest of his time looking after the Taggart account.

The case continues.

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