Investigation into how son of bankrupt came to own father’s property

Son registered as owner of properties year after Woodside Properties purchased them

In December last, Ms Justice Teresa Pilkington extended the bankruptcy of PJ Sweeney, of High Cairn, Ramelton, Co Donegal, to July 2025. Photograph: Alan Betson

In December last, Ms Justice Teresa Pilkington extended the bankruptcy of PJ Sweeney, of High Cairn, Ramelton, Co Donegal, to July 2025. Photograph: Alan Betson

 

An investigation into how the son of a Co Donegal bankrupt came to own property that had formerly been owned by his father, is being conducted by the official assignee, Chris Lehane.

In December last, Ms Justice Teresa Pilkington extended the bankruptcy of PJ Sweeney, of High Cairn, Ramelton, Co Donegal, to July 2025.

Mr Lehane told the judge that Mr Sweeney, who was adjudicated a bankrupt in July 2017 because of his debts to the Bank of Ireland, was not engaging with his office and had failed to produce a statement of affairs. Mr Sweeney was not represented at the hearing.

Court papers from Mr Sweeney’s bankruptcy file show that Mr Lehane is investigating how Mr Sweeney’s son, Ciaran, came to be the owner of property formerly owned by his father.

In December, Ms Justice Pilkington granted an order to Mr Lehane that solicitor Dominic Brennan, of Gallagher and Brennan Solicitors, Kilmacrenan, Co Donegal, should produce files relating to the sale of four property portfolios in Co Donegal, and the details of any related bank accounts.

The four properties, which had been owned by Mr Sweeney, were sold in 2017 by a receiver appointed by the Bank of Ireland.

Not mortgaged

They were bought by Woodside Properties Ire Ltd, a Northern Ireland company with a registered address in Portadown, Co Armagh.

A year later, Mr Sweeney’s son, Ciaran, also of High Cairn, Ramelton, was registered as the owner of the properties, all of which, Mr Lehane noted in court documents, were not mortgaged.

When he wrote to Woodside, the company told the bankruptcy official that it was not in a position to disclose information about the sales.

In May 2019, Mr Brennan, in a response to Mr Lehane, said he would have to seek instructions from his client, Ciaran Sweeney, before responding to Mr Lehane’s request for information.

Mr Lehane later received a response from the law firm from which, Mr Lehane said in a court document, it appeared that Ciaran Sweeney had acquired three of the four Donegal properties from Woodside in return for an unidentified property that was in his sole name.

His own inquiries, Mr Lehane said, indicated that this unidentified property may be a property in Co Donegal that Ciaran Sweeney acquired in April 2016, at a time when he was 19 years old.

It appeared that Ciaran Sweeney had sold one of the three properties he had acquired from Woodside, and used the proceeds to buy the fourth property formerly owned by his father.

Mr Lehane, in seeking an extension to Mr Sweeney’s period of bankruptcy, told Ms Justice Pilkington that the four properties had been valued at €300,000 and that he wanted time to further investigate the matter.