Former Fine Gael minister Ivan Yates has called AIB “vindictive” for pursuing his wife for €1.6m in debts over the collapse of his Celtic Bookmakers chain after the High Court ruled the bank was entitled to have the money paid to it.
Mr Yates, a broadcaster with Newstalk and TV3 who went bankrupt in Wales several years ago, said the action was pointless as his schoolteacher wife, Deirdre, had no assets to hand over.
“It was completely unnecessary to seek a judgement against Deirdre because there has never been any suggestion that I transferred any assets out of my name either to Deirdre or any other family member,” he said.
“All the assets that I had have been captured by the bank in bankruptcy and all the proceeds of the receivership, the sale of 35 betting shops, went to the bank.
“Deirdre’s only asset is a half-share in a dormer bungalow in Enniscorthy that we built when we got married in 1985, which is worth about €80,000.”
He said the bank already had a charge on the house, which is where his mother lives, and would be entitled to claim it after her death.
“So unless they want to bankrupt Deirdre in their relentless vindictive pursuit against my family, there’s actually no realisable gain for them in taking this course of action,” he said.
The High Court granted AIB the judgment after rejecting Ms Yates’ defence that she did not realise that a guarantee she signed in relation to loans for the family bookie company would give the bank the right to pursue her for her family home at Blackstoops, Enniscorthy, Co Wexford. Mr Justice Seamus Noonan ruled she had, to his mind, “no defence” to AIB’s case and he granted judgement for €1,648,147.
The case arose out of a guarantee Ms Yates gave on April 13, 2010, towards €6.7m in loans for the expansion of the Celtic Bookmakers chain, which was run by her husband. In January 2011, the bank appointed a receiver over Celtic, which went into liquidation.
Mr Justice Noonan said Ms Yates had, in opposing the bank’s application for judgment, claimed her clear understanding was that she signed documents relating to the guarantee “for administrative purposes only”.
However, he said it was clear that she was secretary of Celtic and a shareholder, that she regularly attended meetings with the bank, and was appraised of financial affairs.
“The defendant is clearly an educated woman and does not purport to suggest she had any particular difficulty in understanding the document,” he said.
Mr Yates said he and his wife would not be appealing the ruling because they could not afford to but he said they would seek a stay of execution on it as there were “significant” proceeds due from the sale of Celtic which would go some way to meeting the €1.6m.
He said their experience was a “cautionary tale” for any self-employed entrepreneur, as personal guarantees were presented as mere formalities when they could be ruinous.
“A lot of people don’t realise just how serious signing a personal guarantee is,” he said. “Throughout the recession, large firms have restructured their debts for tens and hundreds of millions and nobody has lost their home or gone bankrupt, whereas if you give a personal guarantee it is entirely open-ended and AIB will come after you several years later and pursue you to the end.”
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