Saturday 24 February 2018

Priory Hall developer McFeely urges High Court to refuse 'oppressive' bid to extend his bankruptcy by another five years

Developer Tom McFeely
Developer Tom McFeely

PRIORY Hall developer Thomas McFeely has urged the High Court to refuse what he says is an “oppressive” bid to extend his bankruptcy by another five years.

The official administering the bankruptcy wants the extension over Mr McFeely’s alleged failure to co-operate with him by disclosing

precisely where he is living, along with an interest in certain assets, including some apartments in Clondalkin and Ballymount, Dublin.

Mr McFeely was adjudicated bankrupt here in July 2012, with substantial debts including €200m owed to NAMA.

He was previously adjudicated bankrupt in England and Wales but that was rescinded after a woman owed €100,000 by companies of Mr McFeely brought proceedings here.

His bankruptcy was due to expire last summer but, if court-official administering his bankruptcy, official assignee Chris Lehane, secures the extension sought, it will continue to 2020.

Mr McFeely claims a five year extension, the maximum period allowed under bankruptcy laws, is unfair, disproportionate and oppressive.  He also says Mr Lehane is unfairly singling him out from other bankrupts.

Ms Justice Caroline Costello heard further arguments on behalf of both sides on Monday.

Bernard Dunleavy SC, for the official assignee, will conclude his reply today after which it is expected judgment  will be reserved.

Vincent P. Martin BL, for Mr McFeely, said his client believed Mr Lehane had not taken him at his word in relation to explanations concerning his interest in several apartments at Aras Na Cluaine, Clondalkin and the Old Saw Mills, Ballymount, Dublin 12.

The court heard information concerning those assets was discovered after Mr Lehane obtained documents from a company, Coalport, of which Mr McFeely had been a director.

Mr Martin said there were issues concerning that material being seized from a company of which Mr McFeely was no longer a director.

Counsel also said the developer has a permanent address at his childhood home in Claudy, Co Derry but spends most of his time in London.

If Mr McFeely disclosed addresses of family and friends in London with whom he stays, he feared they could be subject to a “media circus” and also asserted rights to privacy under the Constitution and European Convention on Human Rights.

During the period when it was alleged Mr McFeely had not co-operated, his client was trying to address a “very public” eviction of his family from their Dublin home and had no fixed abode for a period in the sense he was staying with various people, counsel also argued.

Mr Lehane should recognise the Derry address as the address for communication but had failed to agree on a "workable" method of communication.

In his reply, Mr Dunleavy said Mr McFeely "has been determined at every hand's turn not to let Mr Lehane know where he lives" which meant his client does not know Mr McFeely's style of accommodation or how he passes his days.

It was not disputed leases in Mr McFeely’s name in relation to apartments in Clondalkin were not disclosed to Mr Lehane, counsel said. Mr McFeely had to rely on the court "closing its eyes" to such information.

It was clear aspects of Mr McFeely's conduct fall into one or more categories of misbehaviour and non co-operation and the court must ensure the integrity of the bankruptcy process is preserved, he argued.

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