THE score’s now one-all between lawyers acting for developer Luke Saraceni and his estranged bank—and that’s before they’ve even got to the main game.
Mr Saraceni is taking on Bankwest for calling in the receivers on his $500 million Raine Square development in the Perth CBD, the fallout of which forced him to sell the Myer building in Fremantle in 2011.
He’s still involved in the redevelopment of the Freo building, having been taken on by new owner Sirona Capital to run the project, which is part of the $220 million makeover of Kings Square.
Mr Saraceni was almost wiped out by Bankwest when it called in receivers KordaMentha but he claims the bank acted unconscionably and outside the law.
He’s not the only one to have complained about his treatment at the hands of the Commonwealth Bank-owned subsidiary, after it called in loans to developers across the country as part of a strategy to reduce debt.
Many customers complained they’d never missed a payment but Bankwest had reclassified the nature of their loans to charge higher interest. The issue was looked at by a Senate inquiry, but that shed little light on what happened as the bank gave its evidence in secret.
Most customers had to wear their losses, but given the size of the Raine Square development Mr Saraceni was able to get financial backing from IMF to take the bank on in the courts.
If he wins, IMF will take a cut from any damages he’s awarded.
Mr Saraceni lost the first legal stoush when the Supreme Court ruled KordaMentha had been lawfully appointed to his Westgem Investments holding company. The other week he took round two after Bankwest sought an injunction to have his lawyers Jackson McDonald kicked off the case.
Bankwest had argued it was possible Jackson McDonald had received illegal “preferential payments” as Westgem went into litigation, but the claim was dismissed as “fanciful”.
by STEVE GRANT