Northern Ireland

Michael Taggart: Former property tycoon denies lying in Belfast court

Michael Taggart
Image caption Michael Taggart and his brother, John, are suing the Ulster Bank for damages

A former property tycoon has denied lying by saying he did not receive bank letters calling in millions of pounds in personal guarantees.

Senior counsel for the Ulster Bank challenged Michael Taggart's honesty after the businessman said the demands for payment had been fabricated.

Mr Taggart and his brother, John, are suing Ulster Bank for alleged negligence and improper conduct.

They say it contributed to the fall of their house-building empire.

Stephen Shaw QC, barrister for the Ulster Bank, said to him: "You're a liar, because if you had not received them you would have been shouting from the rooftops and you never breathed a word of it."

As his cross-examination ended after 16 days in the witness box at the High Court in Belfast, Mr Taggart denied the accusation and a separate assertion that he thought he was "smarter than the market".

The Taggart Group had developments on both sides of the Irish border and Britain as well as 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 County Londonderry, 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 counter-claim, Ulster Bank is seeking £5m and 4.3m euros (£3.4m) it says the Taggarts owe in personal guarantees over land purchases in Kinsealy, in County Dublin and in Northern Ireland.

Referring to letters allegedly sent from the bank in September 2008 to call in the guarantees, Mr Taggart said: "We never got them, and that's not the only letters that have been, in my opinion, fabricated."

'Not a liar'

But Mr Shaw argued that no mention of any non-receipt featured in the Taggarts' statements for the case.

Questioning the businessman's honesty, the barrister insisted he would have already "told the world" the bank was not entitled to the guarantees because demands were never served.

"I have said you were a liar about guarantees being called up, that's not something counsel does lightly," he said.

Mr Taggart replied: "I do not accept what Mr Shaw is putting to me, and if there's one thing I'm not in my life is a liar."

The court also heard how he claimed in a press interview that he thought the market had bottomed out in July 2008.

Mr Shaw suggested he was "standing solitary against the world" at that time.

He told his own counsel, that the Taggart Group would not have come under the same pressures if the bank's concerns had been relayed in spring 2007.

"It wouldn't have been just me, it would have been each and every director in the company," he said.

"There would have been uproar. Many of the things that happened would never have happened."

The case was adjourned until the new year.

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