Taggarts owned Millmount site prior to NAMA entry

Loyalist flag-protestor, Jamie Bryson, outlined how Londonderry developers, Michael and John Taggart, were short-term owners of the Millmount site in Dundonald, which is currently at the centre of the ongoing controversy over the sale of NAMA’s Northern Ireland portfolio to New York private investment firm Cerberus .

He said the Drumsurn natives acquired the development site for £96m in 2007 before their property group collapsed during the financial crash.

The local developers subsequently ended up in NAMA shortly after buying the East Belfast property, according to Mr Bryson.

Mr Bryson was providing evidence to the Stormont Finance Committee on Wednesday, September 23.

“The Millmount site was originally owned by companies controlled by Mr Noel Murphy and Mr Adam Armstrong,” he told the Committee.

“The site was sold to the Taggart brothers for approximately £96 million in 2007. “That was financed through Anglo Irish Bank, which approved a loan for the purchase of the site despite the Taggarts being in financial difficulties. “In 2008, the Taggart brothers’ business was placed inadministration, only a short time after they had purchased the site,” Mr Bryson told the Committee.

He claimed the bank had been reckless in lending to the targets as their business was in difficulty at the time.

“Anglo had effectively financed a company that was heading for administration to purchase the Millmount site. “That site was then placed under the control of an administrator chosen by the Anglo Irish Bank. That administrator, along with the Anglo Irish Bank, came to an agreement that would have resulted in Lagan Homes developing the site. Lagan Homes is owned by Mr Kevin Lagan, who is involved in joint business ventures, such as Lagmore Properties, with Mr Noel Murphy. Mr Murphy directly benefited from the Taggarts’ purchase of the Millmount site, which was funded by the Anglo Irish Bank in dubious financial circumstances, in my view,” he added.

Meanwhile, First Minister Peter Robinson has denied Mr Bryson’s claim to the Committee that he was one of a number of intended beneficiaries of “a success fee” that “was paid into a dormant Danske Bank account at the Donegall Square West branch, and, from there...transferred to an offshore account.”

Mr Robinson responded: “I repeat, I neither received, expected to receive, sought, nor was I offered a single penny as a result of the NAMA sale.”

Mr Bryson’s evidence is available in full at the following link: http://data.niassembly.gov.uk/HansardXml/committee-14996.pdf