Belfast Telegraph

Former billionaire Sean Quinn loses bankruptcy case

By Steven McCaffery

A judge ruled today that former billionaire Sean Quinn was not entitled to file for bankruptcy in Northern Ireland.

This follows a legal challenge by the Anglo-Irish bank which claimed he should be declared bankrupt in the Irish Republic, where it is seeking to recover billions in debt from the businessman.

The lender, now rebranded the Irish Bank Resolution Corporation (IBRC), argued that the 65-year-old's "centre of main interest" is south of the border.

Mr Justice Donal Deeny, sitting in the High Court in Belfast, ruled in favour of the bank.

The businessman's multibillion-euro empire collapsed over the last two years on the back of massive stock market gambles on the share price of Anglo.

Since Mr Quinn asked to be declared bankrupt in Belfast in November, he has been hit with two separate judgments of 1.74 billion euro (£1.49 billion) and 416 million euro (£357 million) by the Commercial Court in Dublin over loans from Anglo.

Mr Quinn was in the court to hear the judge announce he had annulled the bankruptcy.

The judge said he did not accept that Mr Quinn was, as he had claimed, centring his affairs in an office in an industrial estate in his native Derrylin on the northern side of the border in Co Fermanagh.

The bank had claimed that a lease for the office may have been back-dated for the purposes of the bankruptcy bid.

The judge said Mr Quinn had not declared the office lease in his initial application to the court.

"He makes no disclosure about this office," he said.

The bank and Mr Quinn's lawyers had made rival arguments over the use of the Derrylin office.

Mr Quinn had claimed he moved to the premises after being forced to leave his business headquarters.

Justice Deeny said Mr Quinn enjoyed a level of goodwill in the border community where he created thousands of jobs.

But he questioned whether a swift move to a modest office "could be painful to him".

The judge also questioned the lease and what he called the "peppercorn rent" of only £50 a month.

Justice Deeny added: "Taking into account these and other submissions of counsel both for and against Mr Quinn 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."

Justice Deeny said: "I hereby annul the bankruptcy order of November 11 2011, obtained by Sean Quinn, on the ground that it should not have been made as the centre of the debtor's main interests was not in Northern Ireland at the time of bringing the petition but within the jurisdiction of the High Court in Dublin."

He ordered that Mr Quinn pay the legal costs of both the bank and the Official Receiver.

Mr Quinn lost all control of his business in April.

Before his downfall, his story was a classic rags-to-riches tale.

He began his career with a £100 loan to dig gravel on his father's farm.

At the height of his success, the man dubbed "The Mighty Quinn" was worth a reputed 4.72 billion euro (£3.7 billion).

Outside the court Mr Quinn denied he had ever sought to mislead anyone and said he had always worked in Northern Ireland and had never used his home, just south of the Irish border, as an office.

"I must have got half a dozen offers of leased premises within days of the receiver going in there (to take over his former Quinn Group headquarters in Derrylin).

"I never done 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 said.

"There was never any question of me deceiving the court and there was never any need for me to deceive the court."

Asked if he now expected to be made bankrupt in the Republic, as the bank has requested, he said he did not know.

"The bankruptcy is just a deflection of what's going on here," he added.

Mr Quinn dismissed the legal action by the bank, arguing it was irrelevant whether he was declared bankrupt in the north or the south.

The former tycoon, who had international business interests in cement, insurance, glass and property, said he was being scapegoated by the bank which he said had presided over historic losses.

"The decision today is a no brainer - there's nothing to it," he said.

He added: "Whether I am bankrupt in Northern Ireland or southern Ireland - it's a joke.

"What these people want to do is deflect the main interest ... This thing here is only a sham."

Belfast Telegraph

Popular