Northern Ireland

Taggart brothers appeal over paying bank £8.5m stalls

Two brothers whose house building empire collapsed in the property crash have had their appeal against paying a bank more than £8.5m in personal guarantees, delayed.

Michael and John Taggart were held liable for loans made by Ulster Bank before they went into administration.

The brothers' appeal was due to be heard next week but the judge said it was not ready.

Mr Justice McCloskey also criticised both legal teams.

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

In March Belfast High Court had ruled that two separate writs against the brothers for the sums of £5m and 4.3m euros should be upheld.

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.

At the review on Thursday Justice McCloskey also referred to the "troubled history" of the case and criticising the "state of unreadiness".

During the review hearing on Thursday a barrister for the Ulster Bank revealed that a new 156-page affidavit and documents had been served by the Taggarts' legal representatives.

The barrister 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."

The barrister for the Taggart brothers said they wanted the appeal to go ahead as planned next week.

He argued that most of the material in the affidavit and related documents was already known to the bank.

He argued that attempts to gain the documents sought from the law firm without issuing the subpoena had proved unsuccessful.

The judge was further 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 in June.

He said a decision would be taken at that stage whether to fix it for a hearing in September or send it back to the original judge.

The Taggarts have filed a separate multi-million pound lawsuit against the Ulster Bank, claiming the bank acted prematurely when administrators were called in.

The firm was a major success story during the property boom, with the brothers believed to have amassed huge personal fortunes.

But in 2008, their business became one of the highest-profile casualties of the crash.