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Businessman in debt battle with bank set to be evicted

A BUSINESSMAN who has been battling with the Bank of Scotland since having his overdraft withdrawn in 2007 is to be evicted from his £1.3 million home.

PACKING UP: Gordon Neave, pictured at his home with his wife Maureen, claims Bank of Scotland has a vendetta against him. Picture: Gordon Terris
PACKING UP: Gordon Neave, pictured at his home with his wife Maureen, claims Bank of Scotland has a vendetta against him. Picture: Gordon Terris

Gordon Neave, 67, a former Name at Lloyd's of London, and his wife Maureen have been given until August 6 to remove all their furniture from the property in Murrayfield, Edinburgh, but have been told the bailiffs will break in if necessary tomorrow.

He said: "It has really been a vendetta against us because there has been no compromise."

In a last-ditch appeal yesterday to the bank's lawyers, Mr Neave, who ran the Laurie Neave ­property group, said: "Being a current business customer of 38 years and a ­shareholder for over 10, I find it extraordinary that the bank are prepared to resort to what amounts to 'jackboot' tactics of legalised breaking and entering a life-renter's home for the recovery of a commercial debt created by me alone."

The businessman, who 10 years ago attempted to promote an £86m indoor ski-ing centre in Edinburgh through his firm Snow­volution, blames an "engineered default" by the bank at the onset of the financial crisis in 2007.

He says the withdrawal of his companies' working capital, despite the bank having adequate security, left him unable to service his business empire's bank borrowings of £700,000. The debt has now risen to more than £900,000 through ­interest and charges.

Mr Neave says the bank had persuaded him in 2005 to enter into a lifetime mortgage on his home with its private banking division, due to new regulations.

However, that same security was not taken into account when his property borrowings were declared in default in 2007 by the bank's corporate banking arm.

He says the bank has since then told him the two divisions operated "entirely separately", and corporate banking had refused to speak to him.

His appeal to the bank continues: "In the 1992 property crash my original trading company Watson Neave had an unsecured overdraft facility of £360,000 with Bank of Scotland and work in progress of £360,000. Due to the loyalty and respect I had for my manager and the institution I paid off all the debt ... I therefore ask your clients to see reason by calling off the bailiffs."

Mr Neave claims the bank's refusal to negotiate forced him to freeze all business activity and to abandon Snowvolution as well as property ventures in New Zealand which were worth more than £1.5m. He said: "Some 18 months ago, without discussion or dialogue, Bank of Scotland started court proceedings to recover the debt by demanding we sell our home purely to improve their balance sheet.

"Because our entire working capital is currently tied up in the equity release (mortgage), for the last year we have been forced to live on our state pensions and a Friends Provident annuity of £600 per month on which I pay tax. In turn we have had to represent ourselves in court as we were unable to pay our lawyers' fees."

Mr Neave says in 2012 he offered to enter into an equity release plan, and to assign to the bank life assurance policies worth £700,000 that would have enabled him to pay off two loans totalling £230,000 and match the value of the remaining debt. But the bank had been unwilling to relinquish its security over his home and had obtained a court decree.

The businessman's complaint to the financial ombudsman in 2009 was rejected on the grounds that the bank had made a commercial decision. Mr Neave made a final appeal to the bank's chairman Lord Blackwell last month, without reply.

A Bank of Scotland spokesman said: "We have tried to work with Mr Neave for a number of years to find an acceptable way for him to repay the debt. Mr Neave's complaints against us have been rejected by the Financial Ombudsman Service four times and his appeal against the court ruling was also dismissed last year. We are therefore standing by our decision."

The bank drew attention to the appeal hearing last November at which Sheriff O'Grady said the bank had made "many and extensive efforts to resolve matters" but that Mr Neave's proposals had been "vague and optimistic". The debt had been due in 2010, the sheriff said, and none had been repaid.

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