The war of words between the overseas property firm run by Peterborough United chairman Darragh MacAnthony and its unhappy clients has just gone nuclear.
MacAnthony Realty International sold homes and furniture packages across the world from Bulgaria to Florida, but complaints range from swimming pools not existing to apartments not even being built.
MRI responded by bringing in libel lawyers Carter-Ruck to target customers making what it called “unjustified attacks”.
Now MacAnthony has responded with an astonishing blog to reports that 51 British and Irish customers, represented by lawyer Antonio Flores, hope to take legal action against him in Madrid.
“If you Google my name, it appears I am about as popular as Osama bin Laden or Gaddafi,” MacAnthony writes.
Then he launches into Flores, saying the lawyer tried to “get MRI clients excited and hire his services and put a few quid in his pocket”. Flores says the blog is defamatory, adding: “We have got 51 clients who claim they have lost money, MacAnthony should address his response to them.”
Back to the blog: “No doubt I will have to spend thousands of pounds on legal fees over this and for what, may I ask? Running a company as best I can in difficult times and having to do what many others have had to over the last few years – move on, sell up or liquidate, leaving behind creditors who won’t get their funds back for a mixture of reasons.
“I operated a company which did thousands… of sales around the world with many happy clients, but will forever be haunted by the few hundred for which it didn’t work out as planned.”
Oh well, if it’s only a few hundred.
A spokesperson for the MRI Support Group (www.mri-sg.org) said: “This is the beginning of getting justice for all the people that have been misled and had their hopes, dreams and health shattered because of MRI. This is just the first of a variety of legal actions to be filed against MRI and its related companies, we cannot not let them get away with treating ordinary people as cash cows without a fight”.
Last year Northern Ireland MP Sammy Wilson tabled a House of Commons motion describing MRI or related companies as a property fraud.
In 2008, as a result of complaints against MRI, a tribunal held by the National Federation of Property Professionals said it was “appalled to hear of the company’s misleading business practices”. It issued fines of £5,000 and MacAnthony resigned his membership of the Federation.