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Barrister ponders how 'unemployed' man can have a Northern office

FOR close to five hours yesterday, the barrister hired by Anglo Irish Bank poked holes in Sean Quinn's Northern Ireland bankruptcy, attacking his petition on what seemed like every conceivable ground.

Mr Quinn claimed he had opted for the North because he had worked and lived in Co Fermanagh all his life.

The Quinn Group is indeed headquartered in the North, but Anglo was quick to point out that Mr Quinn had ceased being a director of the Quinn Group for all material purposes in April -- six months before he petitioned for bankruptcy.

Where the Quinn Group was based was irrelevant to the bankruptcy application because Mr Quinn didn't work there when the bankruptcy application was made, Anglo's counsel Gabriel Moss ventured.

Mr Moss gave similarly short shrift to the idea that Mr Quinn was now working in the North as a businessman in his own right.

In his bankruptcy application, Mr Quinn had claimed to be "unemployed" and passed up several opportunities to present himself as "self-employed" at his new office, Mr Moss pointed out.

The fact that Mr Quinn is self-declared as "unemployed" is not compatible with him also being self-employed at his new office.

The main activity being carried on at that Derrylin office appeared to be "litigation", Mr Moss said, referencing the massive volume of legal actions that his client and Mr Quinn's family are embroiled in.

Litigation is not a business activity, therefore Mr Quinn is not carrying on a 'business' as a self-employed person at his new address, Mr Moss said.

And even if he were carrying on business these days in Derrylin, it wouldn't matter, according to Mr Moss's submission. For a bankruptcy to hold in the North, the North must be "ascertainable" as Mr Quinn's centre of business.

By his own admission, Mr Quinn used to park his car around the back of the site so he wouldn't be spotted before word "leaked out" and his whereabouts became known around the village of Derrylin.

Therefore, Mr Moss surmised, the location could not be deemed to be "ascertainable" to Mr Quinn's main creditor (Anglo) since it had been "hidden" from the nationalised bank that now goes by the name IBRC.

It was very much the Anglo show as Mr Moss dominated the floor in line with his status as the party making the petition (to annul the bankruptcy). The QC will be given another 45 minutes or so to sum up today, and then it will be Quinn time.

The entrepreneur's QC will have to explain how exactly his client considers himself to be "working" in the North, whether it is through his current activities or his past ones, and what those current activities are.

Why did he declare himself unemployed if he is in fact self-employed? How can be claim his Northern Ireland work place was "ascertainable" to creditors when his only creditor Anglo claims it was "hidden" from them?

Is his Northern Ireland work place really a work place, and if it is, then why was its lease not listed among his assets in documents presented to the court?

It promises to be an interesting day, one when Ireland's one-time richest man may himself finally be called to the stand to account for his position.

Irish Independent