Seán Quinn's bankruptcy case is brought forward

 

The Irish Bank Resolution Corporation has secured an order at the High Court in Dublin allowing it to bring forward proceedings aimed at having businessman Sean Quinn declared bankrupt in the Republic.

The bank sought the order arising out of its fears the former billionaire may dissipate assets and put them out of the reach of the State-owned former Anglo Irish Bank before the bankruptcy proceedings come before the court.

The application to have the bankruptcy proceedings brought forward was made just hours after the High Court in Belfast annulled Mr Quinn’s bankruptcy in Northern Ireland and said it was a matter for the courts in Dublin.

The ruling followed a legal challenge by the IBRC, which claimed he should be declared bankrupt in the Republic on grounds that Mr Quinn’s main centre of interests is in the Republic.

Mr Justice Donal Deeny, sitting in the High Court in Belfast, ruled in favour of the bank. He said Mr Quinn’s centre of main interest was in the Republic and not in Derrylin, Co Fermanagh, as he had claimed.

Mr Quinn (65) made an unexpected and successful application for bankruptcy status in Northern Ireland in November. Mr Quinn told the court in Belfast in November he had assets of less than £50,000. The bank says he owes it nearly €3 billion.

He was present in court for today’s hearing in Belfast.

At the High Court in Dublin this evening, Mr Justice John Edwards said he was satisfied to grant the bank the application it sought. The application was made on an ex-parte basis.

The bank’s petition to have Mr Quinn declared a bankrupt will now be heard by the High Court on Monday January 16th, a week earlier than planned.

During the proceedings in Belfast, the bank and Mr Quinn’s lawyers had made rival arguments over the use of an office in Derrylin. Mr Quinn had claimed he moved to the premises after being forced to leave his business headquarters in Co Cavan.

Mr Justice Deeny said a commercial lease presented to the court by Mr Quinn for the office was “a somewhat curious document" which was not witnessed by anybody, and was for what seemed to be close to a "peppercorn rent” of only £50 a month. He said if the office was given to Mr Quinn out of a sense of loyalty, then why have a lease at all.

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. “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.”

The judge said an invoice given to the court by Mr Quinn from a firm in Tallaght called Print In Time for letterheads and business cards using the Derrylin address did not include a bill for compliment slips which had also been presented to the court. “It’s likely that the invoice refers to other letterheads and cards than the ones furnished,” he said.

He said Quinn had also failed to disclose the fact he held an Irish passport but no British passport, and he was a registered voter in the Republic.

“I hereby annul the bankruptcy order of November 11th, 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," the judge said.

Speaking to the media outside the court, Mr Quinn said he has worked every day of his life in Co Fermanagh and accused the IBRC of pursing a personal vendetta against him.

"What I heard in court was a bit peculiar," he said. "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.

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

"The whole thing is a joke," he claimed, adding that the bank would never retrieve its money. "How would you get it back? The company is destroyed. It is like somebody taking a sledgehammer to a child's toy. It is wrecked."

Lawyers for Mr Quinn said they wanted to study Mr Justice Deeny's judgment before deciding whether or not to appeal.

A bankrupt in Northern Ireland can emerge from his or her debts in 12 months while in the Republic it can take up to 12 years.