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Ulster Bank not aware of alleged multi-million black hole in former property giant Taggart Group's finances, court hears

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The boy, identified only as M, brought a legal challenge over the level of scrutiny at specialist residential facilities in Northern Ireland where he was moved to last April.

The boy, identified only as M, brought a legal challenge over the level of scrutiny at specialist residential facilities in Northern Ireland where he was moved to last April.

The boy, identified only as M, brought a legal challenge over the level of scrutiny at specialist residential facilities in Northern Ireland where he was moved to last April.

Ulster Bank was not aware of an alleged £25-30 million black hole in one-time property giant Taggart Group's finances, the High Court heard today.

A senior banker who was part of the firm's relationship management team claimed information that emerged later showed it was not a well-run business.

Richard Ennis was giving evidence as part of the bank's multi-million pound legal battle with former housebuilding tycoons Michael and John Taggart.

The Co Derry brothers are suing for alleged negligence and improper conduct they say contributed to the fall of their business empire.

Once a huge operation on either side of the Irish border, with further interests in Britain, Europe and the United States, the firm was decimated in the 2007 property market crash.

Within a year the Taggart Group had gone into administration.

In a claim for damages the brothers allege they were kept in the dark about credit concerns within the bank.

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

Ulster Bank has lodged counter writs for £5m and 4.3m euros it says the Taggarts owe in personal guarantees over land purchases in Kinsealy, north Co Dublin and in Northern Ireland.

Mr Ennis was one of the senior members of Taggart relationship team during the period under scrutiny.

He told the court today that he believed the company's trading performance was "very, very strong" up until losses were disclosed in the accounts in June 2007.

The banker had access to no information of concern up to that point, he said.

Asked by Stephen Shaw QC, for Ulster Bank, if any such material has emerged during the case, Mr Ennis replied: "Yes, there was significant information, the December cash flow that wasn't presented to the bank showed a £25-30m black hole."

The firm would also have been expected to raise operational issues around efforts to refinance its Manchester division, he added.

Mr Shaw continued: "In light of the information now present, to your mind was this business well-run?"

Mr Ennis responded: "No."

But earlier he was challenged about the Taggarts not "grabbing the first deal that came along" in trying to refinance Manchester and other transactions.

Gerald Simpson QC, for the brothers, contended: "(It) is entirely consistent with them not being told of the specific concerns that the bank had during this period, and how these were escalating."

He pressed the witness on why Ulster Bank would have considered a financial injection into the north of England operation if it believed the firm was so poorly run.

"Do you see that it's wholly consistent with (Michael) Taggart's view that nothing was troubling the bank, and that the bank was still prepared to fund a major enterprise in Manchester?" he asked.

Mr Ennis replied: "I don't agree with it."

The case continues.


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