Taggart Group: Ulster Bank case hears of Facebook request
A senior Ulster Bank official sent a Facebook friend request to the wife of former property tycoon Michael Taggart as part of an alleged "obsession" with his firm, Belfast High Court has heard.
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.
The court heard claims that Gary Barr's "hatred" for the firm extended to contacting Mrs Taggart on social media.
The Taggart Group had developments on both sides of the Irish border and Britain as well as interests in the United States, but the firm was badly damaged 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. They argue that if they had been warned, 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.
Mr Barr, who has been with Ulster Bank for 14 years, was part of the relationship management team dealing with the Taggart account prior to the firm's collapse.
Under cross-examination by a barrister acting for the brothers on Monday, he was asked about accessing Mrs Taggart's Facebook page in January last year.
The action had been due to begin at that stage, but was delayed because of John Taggart's health.
"Why on earth were you, as a witness in the bank's case, seeking to go to the personal Facebook page of the wife of a defendant in that case?" he asked.
The bank official said it was among a series of internet search results, all of which he clicked on.
The barrister put it to him: "I suggest to you that you have a personal animosity against the Taggarts and that includes relatives, that you hate these people, that you became obsessed by them."
Mr Barr rejected this, saying that it came up in a search as part of preparations for the case.
The barrister said Mr Barr was looking at every aspect of his clients' lives, trying to see if it would "do some damage" to their case.
He alleged the bank representative was seeking any reference to John Taggart having attended a party at a time when he was said to be unwell.
On being told it was nothing more than a coincidence, the barrister asked: "Is it just a coincidence you asked to be a friend?"
Mr Barr replied: "That was not done deliberately.
"I remember getting a message from the lady asking if we had worked together before and I remember at that point being shocked.
"The implication of the message was I had put the friend request in and I was not aware."
Mr Barr said he was "strongly refuting" the accusation, but the barrister said: "It's a lie. It show's you're an obsessed man obsessed by the Taggarts."
The hearing continues.