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Friday 26 May 2017

'Broke' Quinn could be back in business after 12 months

The judgment

Laura Noonan

Laura Noonan

ONCE Ireland's richest man, Sean Quinn -- who yesterday admitted he was broke -- could be back in business within a year.

That is because the former billionaire decided to declare himself bankrupt in Belfast instead of going through the Republic's courts.

It also means his bankruptcy will only last 12 months -- as opposed to the 12 years he would have been out of business if he had gone through the process here.

As well as being freed from his debts far sooner, the Belfast route also allows Mr Quinn -- whose fortune was once estimated at €4bn -- to hang on to what is believed to be a sizeable pension.

But Anglo Irish Bank could still throw a spanner in the works if it decides to push for him to be declared bankrupt in the Republic. A decision on that is expected within days.

Mr Quinn lives just outside Ballyconnell, Co Cavan, a few miles from the Border. He said he made his bankruptcy application in the North because he was "born, reared and worked all my life in Co Fermanagh".

Mr Quinn also hinted he might make use of his ability to return to the business world swiftly, saying he would "look to the future with hope for the opportunities and challenges which lie ahead of me".

His spokesman yesterday declined to answer questions on whether Mr Quinn's decision to apply for bankruptcy in Belfast was also influenced by the more favourable pension treatment.

Pay

The spokesman also declined to comment on how much of his debts Mr Quinn was likely to be able to pay off through the bankruptcy.

Mr Quinn's dramatic financial demise began in 2008, when he lost close to €3bn on a disastrous investment in Anglo Irish Bank shares.

In March 2010, he lost control of Quinn Insurance to court-appointed administrators.

A year later, Anglo seized control of the Quinn Group and the family's international property empire after talks about the family's €2.9bn debts broke down.

Anglo claims Mr Quinn owes it more than €2bn. Mr Quinn told the courts his total debts were less than €200m -- which he says he is unable to repay.

The bank will go to the Dublin court on Monday seeking judgment orders that would compel Mr Quinn to pay more than €2bn.

It was Anglo's decision to push for those judgments that prompted Mr Quinn to petition the courts for bankruptcy yesterday, his spokesman said.

Mr Quinn said his decision was taken with "great sadness and regret".

"I have done absolutely everything in my power to avoid taking this drastic decision," Mr Quinn said. "However, I can not now pay those loans which are due."

He blamed Anglo's seizure of his Quinn Group earlier in the year for his inability to pay back his loans and said the bank was "intent on making scapegoats" of him and his family. Anglo has strenuously denied this.

While a UK bankruptcy offers significant benefits to Mr Quinn, sources last night said the process was unlikely to have a material impact on Anglo's prospect of recovering the Quinn debts.

If the bank feels it will lose out under the UK process, it has a "window of opportunity" to oppose it and attempt to make Mr Quinn bankrupt here instead, sources said.

Anglo said it would "continue to pursue maximum recovery" of the Quinn family debts.

Irish Independent

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