'Richest man in Ireland' files for bankruptcy

11th November 2011, Comments 0 comments

A tycoon once thought to be Ireland's richest man filed for bankruptcy Friday, ending a two-year descent into financial ruin sparked by the entrepreneur's high-risk gambles during the economic crisis.

Sean Quinn, worth a reputed 4.7 billion euros ($6.5 billion) at the height of his success after starting out more than three decades ago with tiny loan, said he applied for voluntary bankruptcy at the High Court in Belfast.

Once dubbed "the Mighty Quinn," the tycoon saw his fortunes nosedive after he bought shares in Anglo Irish Bank which became worthless when it collapsed amid the financial crisis and had to be nationalised.

The bank now claims that Quinn, 64, owes it more than 2.8 billion euros, although he says the figure is lower. He was stripped of control of his manufacturing and business empire in April.

"It is with great sadness and regret that I have applied for voluntary bankruptcy," he said in a statement issued in Dublin.

"I have done absolutely everything in my power to avoid taking this drastic decision," he said, adding his financial woes stemmed from "ill-fated investments in Anglo."

Quinn said he made the application in Northern Ireland, part of the United Kingdom, instead of in the Republic of Ireland where most of his business interests were based, as he was "born, reared and worked all my life" in the province.

But by filing for bankruptcy in Northern Ireland, he must only wait a year before he can get back into business. Had he done so in the Republic, he would have faced a 12-year wait.

Irish Bank Resolution Corporation, the new name for the nationalised Anglo Irish Bank, said it was examining whether Quinn should have been allowed to make the application in Northern Ireland, which has its own jurisdiction.

"The bank is examining the validity of this application for bankruptcy in the light of Mr. Quinn's residency and extensive business interests and liabilities within the (Irish) state," a statement said.

Quinn denied owing Anglo Irish Bank as much as the bank claimed and lashed out at the lender.

"Recent history has shown that I, like thousands of others in Ireland, incorrectly relied upon the persons who guided Anglo and who wrongfully sought to portray a 'blue chip' Irish banking stock," he said.

Ireland's banks, which lent recklessly to property developers, were at the heart of the country's financial crisis that forced it to turn to the European Union and the International Monetary Fund for a huge bailout in November last year.

© 2011 AFP

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