THE UK's insolvency watchdog has heavily penalised two Irish property developers who transferred money to their relatives and hid assets before they were declared bankrupt in Britain.
Patrick Gerard Byrne and Martin Doran have been told they must spend nine and seven years respectively in bankruptcy – instead of the usual 12 months – after they were found to have been trying to "put the money beyond the reach of creditors".
There has been a sharp rise in the number of Irish people seeking bankruptcy in the UK. Typically, bankrupts in the UK face one year in financial purgatory, instead of 12 in Ireland.
However, the heavy penalties announced yesterday by the UK's Insolvency Service, which investigates official bankruptcies, point to a tougher approach from the British authorities.
Patrick Gerard Byrne (44), with addresses in Thomastown, Caragh in Naas and Athgarvan, Co Kildare, as well as Durham in the UK, was declared bankrupt in November 2011, with debts of almost €100m.
An investigation by the official receiver in the UK found that before his bankruptcy, he had moved money to relatives and associates in "informal and unwritten agreements".
A statement from the Insolvency Service said: "On April 28, 2011, the balance of Mr Byrne's account was €1.2m. He transferred €500,000 to his estranged ex-wife.
"He also transferred €500,000 to the niece of a business associate, claiming this was repayment of a loan, and transferred €114,000 to his sister and €82,800 to a solicitor. By May 9, 2011, the balance of his account was just under €2,000."
He also failed to disclose a mortgage-free property in Holyhead, Wales worth €89,000, of which he was the sole owner.
Martin Doran (57), with addresses at Ballyfrory, Duncormick, Co Wexford and Butcher Street in Leeds, was declared bankrupt in December 2011, with debts of almost €145m. He had founded Ellen Construction with his brother Michael.
The Insolvency Office said that in the months prior to his bankruptcy, Martin Doran sold lands at Ballyfrory and deposited almost €165,000 from the sale into his wife's accounts.
"In addition, after petitioning for his bankruptcy but before the order had been passed, he received a €195,055 tax refund into the joint account he held with his wife, €100,000 of which she then transferred into her sole account.
Both of the men are now said to be living back in Ireland.
Allan Mitchell of the Insolvency Service said: "They thought they could wipe these debts out in a year and move on. They transferred money to friends, relatives and associates – anyone but their creditors."