ACC pursues designer for €1.9m over property buys

A CALIFORNIA-BASED interior designer is being pursued by ACC Bank here for about €1.9 million over loans advanced to buy investment properties in Kinsale, Co Cork.

Ms Justice Mary Finlay Geoghegan yesterday transferred the bank’s proceedings against Haley McGuire, a US citizen, of Wells Drive, Tarzana, California, to the Commercial Court.

After counsel for Ms McGuire said he wanted to see a copy of his client’s mortgage protection policy with the bank and other documents in considering the defence to be raised, the judge agreed to adjourn the matter to next month to allow that material be provided to Ms McGuire and to give her an opportunity to set out a defence.

Counsel for Ms McGuire added he also rejected as “scandalous” concerns by the bank that the offering for sale of Ms McGuire’s California home might be an attempt to frustrate any judgment obtained.

Counsel said that Ms McGuire is an interior designer whose modus operandi is to purchase property, upgrade it and sell it and the house had been for sale since 2008 before any demand issued.

In ACC’s claim, it said the California property is valued at some $3.5m and, from that value, the bank deduced she is a person of “real substance”.

The bank exhibited an advertisement for the property in which it was described as “natural entertainer’s estate” and “impeccable Connecticut-style tennis court estate” of 4,650 square feet.

The property was said to have five bedrooms, five bathrooms, a “true butler’s pantry” and “private one-of-a-kind yard” including a citrus grove with lounging pavilion, grassy areas, sparkling pool and spa, fountain and lighted tennis court with pergola-shaped court-side spectator lounge.

Bernard Dunleavy, for ACC, had earlier rejected claims of delay by the bank in bringing the proceedings such as disentitled it to avail of the fast-track procedures of the Commercial Court.

Counsel said there had been correspondence with Ms McGuire herself and, at a later stage, with solicitors acting for her. The bank had also to await a legal opinion concerning the appropriate forum for its proceedings.

Ms Justice Finlay Geoghegan ruled that, while there was some delay since the bank issued its letters of demand, the facts of the case did not preclude the bank from entitlement to avail of the Commercial Court procedures. There was also delay on the part of Ms McGuire in dealing with the matter, she added.

The proceedings arise from a €1.85m loan offer advanced by ACC to Ms McGuire in September 2004 for the purchase of seven investment properties at Brownsmills, Kinsale.

The bank claims that Ms McGuire drew down those funds in November 2004. It claims the loan facility was repayable on demand and provided that interest-only would be repaid for the first two years on the 25-year term of the loan, after which repayments were to consist of principal and interest.

It claims Ms McGuire failed to adhere to the agreed schedule for repayment and the bank demanded repayment in September 2009 of some €1.9m, but that sum had not been repaid. It claims some €1.96m remains due and owing.

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