Appeal court upholds 10-year extension of developer’s bankruptcy

Judge found extension not so disproportionate as to merit being set aside

Mr Justice Birmingham said the High Court found Mr Daly’s approach to his bankruptcy was obstructive. Photograph: iStock

Mr Justice Birmingham said the High Court found Mr Daly’s approach to his bankruptcy was obstructive. Photograph: iStock

 

The Court of Appeal (CoA) has upheld a decision extending for ten years, rather than five, the bankruptcy of a property developer over “serious” failure to co-operate with his bankruptcy trustee.

Mr Justice George Birmingham, president of the CoA, found the extension of Patrick A Daly’s bankruptcy was not so severe or disproportionate it should be set aside. He dismissed Mr Daly’s appeal over the extension decision.

Mr Daly, formerly of Ballinagore House, Ballinagore, Co Westmeath, was declared bankrupt in 2015 having consented, along with his wife Ann, to a €4.4 million judgment against them in 2012.

He failed to co-operate with the official assignee in bankruptcy, including not filing a statement of affairs or personal information, until High Court proceedings seeking to extend his bankruptcy were brought against him in 2017.

Mr Daly and his wife had been involved in construction and property development over a number of years, operating through a number of companies.

They owned Ballinagore House, a company which owned an adjoining equestrian centre on 50 acres, and a Spanish holiday apartment.

Mr Justice Birmingham said that, by 2012, when they were “seriously insolvent”, Bank of Ireland, which had already sued them, threatened further proceedings. As a result, they entered into transactions concerning their assets including the sale of their home. While their home property was valued at €550,000, that was reduced to €100,000 because they retained rights of residence.

The house was sold to what the judge said was a friend and business associate of Mr Daly, Devon Anne McNeill, otherwise Devon Anne Ralls, who lived in America. A substantial interest in the equestrian centre was transferred to Mr Daly’s brother Brendan through a company, Jalpa Properties. The Spanish apartment was also, in a share transfer deal, given to his brother apparently in payment for debts due to Brendan Daly.

Bank of Ireland, alongside all this, had brought proceedings seeking €4.4 million against Patrick A Daly and judgment was obtained on consent in 2012.

The official assignee alleged against Mr Daly he had failed to co-operate in the realisation of the assets of his estate or had hidden them from creditors.

Not forthcoming

The High Court ruled in 2018 Mr Daly had failed to do so and extended his bankruptcy by ten years. The High Court found, while Mr Daly had participated in an interview with the official assignee, he was not forthcoming particularly with regard to the involvement of his American associate, Ms McNeill/Ralls, in a Panamanian investment consortium.

In his appeal, Mr Daly’s core claim was that the High Court lacked jurisdiction to extend by ten years when the official assignee had initially sought a five-year extension.

Mr Justice Birmingham said the High Court found Mr Daly’s approach to his bankruptcy was obstructive. He had made life difficult for the official assignee, for example, in refusing to clarify whether Ms McNeill/Ralls was the same person who was involved in the Panamanian consortium, which Mr Daly was also involved in.

The High Court correctly concluded the non co-operation was at the serious end of the spectrum and a very significant extension was inevitable, he said.