Northern Ireland

Taggarts: Ulster Bank lawyer is accused of 'hatred' for property developer brothers

Taggart Group building
Image caption The Taggart Group housebuilding firm, founded by brothers Michael and John Taggart, was decimated by the 2007 property crash

An Ulster Bank senior official's alleged "hatred" for property developers Michael and John Taggart has infected his evidence, the High Court in Belfast has heard.

The brothers' counsel also accused Gary Barr of lying about issues around a £5m personal guarantee request.

The Taggarts are suing the bank claiming its alleged negligence contributed to their firm's collapse.

In a counterclaim, the bank is seeking £5m and £3.3m it says the Taggarts owe.

Michael Taggart and his brother John, from County Londonderry, were once amongst the richest people on the island of Ireland.

They ran the Taggart Group housebuilding firm, which was decimated by the 2007 property crash.

At one stage, they were involved in property developments on both sides of the Irish border, Britain and further interests in the United States, but the Taggart Group went into administration in 2008.


The brothers claim Ulster Bank failed to inform them of its credit concerns about their housebuilding company in the lead up to the property crash.

They have argued that had they been warned, they could have sold their assets to off-set loans and save their business.

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

The bank has lodged counter writs for millions of euros it says the Taggarts owe in personal guarantees over land purchases in Kinsealy, north County Dublin and in Northern Ireland.

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

As his cross-examination continued at the High Court in Belfast, counsel for the Taggarts questioned him about a meeting in June 2007 when the £5m guarantee request was said to have been first raised.

He told the Taggarts' barrister that he did not recall any "kick-back" from Michael Taggart in objection to the requirement.

But the barrister claimed he was "tailoring" his evidence after being vague about the rest of the meeting.

"You know fine well it's not right, this man (Mr Taggart) did not agree to give a £5m guarantee at this meeting," the barrister contended.


The banker insisted, however, that he would have remembered any vehement arguments against the request.

His reply provoked claims that his memory was "so vague as to be extremely unhelpful".

The Taggarts barrister then said: "Yesterday when I suggested again to you that your obsession and hatred is infecting your evidence and you said no..."

At that stage Mr Barr interrupted to stress: "I strongly refute the suggestion that there's hatred for the individuals."

But the lawyer added: "What I'm suggesting is it's infecting your evidence.

"You remember little about this meeting but you remember there was no kick-back.

"It's just nonsense, it's just wrong, it's a lie."

As the questioning continued, Mr Barr was asked if Mr Taggart had agreed to give the personal guarantee at the meeting.

He replied: "I'm not sure that there was ever a time where he said I will sign this guarantee, but my recollection after that meeting was that from what had happened there was no objection to it and it was the expectation in due course that the guarantee would be provided."

The case continues.

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