Court asked to extend Priory Hall developers bankruptcy term

Priory Hall developer Tom McFeely was adjudicated bankrupt in Ireland by the High Court in July 2012 and his bankruptcy was due to expire on July 30th last.

Priory Hall developer Thomas McFeely failed to provide “simple information”, such as his place of residence, or disclose his interest in “significant assets” to the official in charge of his bankruptcy, the High Court has been told.

Mr McFeely (67) was adjudicated bankrupt in Ireland by the High Court in July 2012 and his bankruptcy was due to expire on July 30th last.

Official Assignee Chris Lehane, the official administering the developer’s bankruptcy, claims Mr McFeely has not been cooperating with the process as he is obliged to do. Represented by Bernard Dunleavy SC and Edward Farrelly, he wants orders extending the bankruptcy by five years, the maximum period allowed under bankruptcy legislation.

Mr McFeely, represented by Vincent P. Martin, opposes the extension as “oppressive and disproportionate” and rejects the allegations against him. The application opened before Ms Justice Caroline Costello on Tuesday and has been adjourned to next month when the judge will hear concluding submissions.

Mr McFeely was the developer of the Priory Hall estate in north Dublin where residents had to be evacuated because of fire safety issues.

Mr Dunleavy said Mr Lehane was seeking the extension because Mr McFeely engaged in “non co-operation of the most serious kind”, leaving Mr Lehane “utterly blind” in terms of his dealings with Mr McFeely.

The most significant element of Mr McFeely’s non co-operation was the failure to give Mr Lehane his actual residence, counsel said. Mr McFeely gave Mr Lehane an address at his family home at Claudy, Co Derry but Mr McFeely did not reside there.

Despite making many requests for “an actual address” where Mr McFeely resides, that was never provided to Mr Lehane, counsel said.  Mr Dunleavy said Mr McFeely has been living in London where he had been staying with different friends.

Mr McFeely also did not make full disclosure about his interest in certain “significant assets”, which he is also obliged to do, counsel said.The assets include several apartments at Aras Na Cluaine, in Clondalkin and the Old Saw Mills, in Ballymount, Dublin 12.

Counsel said the lack of disclosure was “very grave” and the failure to co-operate have effected Mr Lehane’s ability to conduct his duties to deal with the bankrupt’s estate in the best interest of creditors.

The integrity of the process must be protected, counsel argued.   Opposing the application, Mr Martin said, if the application was successful his client will spend a total eight and a half year years in bankruptcy which was “oppressive”.

The five year sanction sought was disproportionate given there was no question of Mr McFeely stealing anything from the estate, counsel said.

The address Mr McFeely gave in Derry was a perfectly valid one for correspondence, was the place where his client was brought up and can reside whenever he wishes, counsel said. Any lack of communication between the parties was not his client’s fault, he added.

Counsel also objected to the use of material taken in “a raid” of Coalport’s premises by agents of the assignee and argued Mr Lehane used media reports “in a bewitching manner” as part of the bid to extend his client’s bankruptcy.

Mr McFeely was adjudicated bankrupt in July 2012, with substantial debts including €200m owed to NAMA. He was previously adjudicated bankrupt in England and Wales but that decision was rescinded after a woman owed €100,000 by companies of Mr McFeely brought proceedings here.

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