NatWest targets wife of insurance group chief

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The Independent Online

Natwest Bank yesterday confirmed it had issued a claim against the assets of the wife of the former chief executive of the collapsed Independent Insurance in a bid to recover £300,000 of debts.

Michael Bright, who stepped down from Independent Insurance before it went into administration, declared himself bankrupt in August.

The couple were believed to be planning to retire to Mr Bright's villa in Spain, and were counting on his wife, Catherine, being able to buy his half-share of the property with the proceeds of the sale of their £2m home in Kent.

NatWest, which is part of Royal Bank of Scotland, is planning to halt these plans and will argue that an outstanding mortgage debt of £300,000 falls on both of the Brights.

As well as his debt to NatWest, Mr Bright owes money to HSBC, which is suing him for £4.3m. Mr Bright is also trying to sell a £1m flat in Wapping, but his combined property assets will still not be enough to pay his debts.

Besides confirming it had issued a legal claim, NatWest would not comment on its contact with the couple.

The Brights are currently at their villa in Marbella, where Mrs Bright is recovering from an illness. Their lawyer, Trevor Sears, said: "You can't sue a bankrupt's wife for his debts. I want NatWest to tell me exactly what claim it is making and then I will have a look at it."

Mr Bright is being investigated by the Serious Fraud Office over the company's demise and may face a claim by shareholders trying to recover compensation for the loss of their investments. But it is more likely that any legal action would be taken against the company's professional advisers, KPMG and Watson Wyatt.