DUBLIN’S docklands can be a cold, unforgiving place to be during the harsh Winter months, with the icy East wind blowing its Siberian breeze up the Liffey, but for many city bankers it’s home to one of the biggest underground bad debt markets in Europe, churning over billions every day.
“Psst, hey you, yeah you! Do you wanna buy any bad mortgages,” one well dressed man in his late 30s approached this reporter on Poolbeg Street, brandishing several pieces of paperwork under his coat, “I’ve got a nice apartment block in Foxrock there for €4mn, all renters, not a leg to stand on, owners swimming in arrears, guaranteed your money back in two months”.
This was just one of a dozen approaches in the space of an hour as I made my way around Dublin’s financial district. Each banker selling blocks of debt to buyers, many of whom were foreign investors looking to make a quick buck.
“We can’t stop them,” local Garda Sergeant Kenneth Moore told WWN, watching on as an Arab gentleman finalised a deal with a PTSB banker’, “they’re technically not breaking any of our laws, so our hands are tied here. If they were inner city lads we could probably build a case, but it’s never worth the paperwork and court time”.
Making my way down George’s Quay, I stopped outside Ulster bank HQ to see an older gentleman who was openly yelling ‘mortgages, tracker free, no risk bad loans, going cheap’ to random people as they passed.
“We have to say ‘tracker free’ now by law, cause you don’t want to be selling vulture funds a dodgy tracker, the debt might actually be wiped off,” he explained.
“It’s all changed now since we got caught; last year you could sell the trackers knowing full well they were duds. This PC culture has seen a decline in street bankers, but there’s still a pretty penny to be made”.
Allowing me to sift through his lot, I couldn’t help noticing a large majority of the debts were from struggling family homeowners, many of them who fell victim to the property crash, the crash the banks helped create, the crash the taxpayer bailed them out of.
“Here look, we’re in charge of the money, whether that be printing it, creating it out of thin air, or what have you; we control the world, and everything in it, so I don’t get your point?” he pointed out, “your government is just there as a go between, so don’t expect them to tell us what to do, when it’s the other way around”.
Following his stunning sales pitch, this reporter bought a part-finished housing estate in Monasterevin, before later selling it to another broker down the street for a tidy profit.