Northern Ireland

Businessman Sean Quinn loses bankruptcy case

Fermanagh businessman, and former billionaire, Sean Quinn was not entitled to declare himself bankrupt in Northern Ireland, a court has ruled.

Mr Quinn declared insolvency in Belfast in November over a huge debt owed to the former Anglo Irish Bank.

The bank, now called IBRC, challenged the move on the grounds that Mr Quinn was based in the Republic of Ireland.

At the High Court on Tuesday Mr Justice Deeney found in favour of the bank, annulling the bankruptcy.

He found that a lease for an office in Derrylin, County Fermanagh, had been drawn up to "bolster" Mr Quinn's claim and that his centre of interest prior to bankruptcy was, in fact, in the Republic of Ireland between his home in County Cavan, offices in Belturbet and advisors offices in Dublin.

The judge described the Derrylin lease as "a somewhat curious document".

Justice Deeny added: "I conclude, on the balance of probabilities, that this lease has been prepared at some much later date to try and bolster the case now being made."

Irish passport

He commented that Mr Quinn had failed to disclose the fact that he held an Irish passport and no UK passport, that he was a voter in the Republic of Ireland and that, despite being a UK taxpayer, 20% of his taxes were paid to the authorities in the Republic.

Mr Justice Deeny stated that, taken together, these matters were material and ought to have been disclosed.

He said he did not think he could safely conclude that this was a deliberate attempt to deceive on the part of Mr Quinn, but found that it was sufficient grounds for him to exercise his discretion to rescind the Bankruptcy Order had he not already decided to annul it.

Mr Quinn could now be declared insolvent in the Republic of Ireland which has a more onerous bankruptcy regime.

The High Court in Dublin has directed that an application by IBRC to have him declared bankrupt in the Republic will be heard next Monday.

The bankruptcy period in Northern Ireland typically lasts for a year whereas in the Republic it is at least five years.

The judge ordered that if Mr Quinn files a fresh bankruptcy petition in Northern Ireland, notice should be given to the bank's solicitor in Belfast.

Mr Justice Deeny said it was likely that any future bankruptcy action by Mr Quinn would be referred to him.

Afterwards Mr Quinn said the case taken by the bank was "a sham".

"I'm 65 years of age and I've never worked a day of my life outside Northern Ireland," he said.

"I never did a day's work from southern Ireland in my life. I never done a day's work in my home. I never had any computers, I never had any IT system. Everything was always done from Derrylin."

He added: "What Anglo Irish has done to the Quinn Group is like somebody taking a sledgehammer to a child's toy - they've absolutely destroyed it."

The bank's barrister, Gabriel Moss QC, said Mr Quinn was now "bound to be made bankrupt" in the Republic of Ireland.

Mr Moss is also seeking disclosure of who was funding Mr Quinn's legal action so that they can be pursued for costs.

Once seen as Ireland's richest man, Mr Quinn, 65, was stripped of control of his manufacturing and insurance business empire last April.

He conceded that he had made mistakes sinking millions into Irish bank shares, but said such mistakes should not result in a "life sentence".

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