Northern Ireland

Swatragh couple Sean and Mary McWilliams released from bankruptcy

A husband and wife, whose multi-million pound property business collapsed, have been released from bankruptcy.

An order confirming the discharge of Sean and Mary McWilliams was made at the High Court.

The trustee in bankruptcy agreed to their release from bankruptcy because of improved co-operation by the couple.

With the official receiver having abandoned a challenge to their bankruptcy status being lifted, it ends allegations of non-cooperation.

The couple oversaw property dealing and development in Ireland and France.

At its peak their firm had an estimated annual turnover of 200m euros.

Mr and Mrs McWilliams, from Swatragh, County Londonderry, said it had been harrowing to lose control of a business built up over 15 years.

In a statement they said: "After 17 months of detailed scrutiny and investigation we have complied with all of our statutory obligations under the bankruptcy legislation and met all our duties of openness and transparency.

"As a consequence of the official receiver/trustee not proceeding with their appeal it is clear that the allegations of non-co-operation against us are without substance.

"As acknowledged in court this morning, the suggestion that we had hidden assets from creditors is completely without foundation or merit and despite being subject to a detailed and at times humiliating investigation our integrity and honesty has been vindicated."

The Official Receiver says there was no such acknowledgement.

The couple were adjudicated bankrupt in June 2011.

Under insolvency rules they had a right to an automatic discharge after 12 months.

In June this year, a high court master threw out an attempt by the official receiver to block the couple's release from bankruptcy, describing the case at without merit.

The discharge was put on hold pending a planned appeal of that ruling.

The case was resolved on Thursday when the trustee agreed to the release from bankruptcy after improved co-operation by the couple in providing information.

Mr and Mrs McWilliams later claimed: "We believe the behaviour of those seeking to deny us our legal rights was motivated by considerations far removed from the circumstances of our case and in doing so had the potential to undermine the integrity of the legal framework.

"Obviously we are relieved that the official receiver/trustee now fully accepts we conducted ourselves properly."

Neither the Official Receiver nor the Trustee has made any statement about the conduct of the couple.

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