DUBLIN Ireland's High Court declared Sean Quinn, once the country's richest men, bankrupt on Monday, preventing the former tycoon from returning to the corporate arena for at least five years and marking yet another twist in a complex legal battle over nearly 3 billion euros (2.4 billion pounds) in debts.
Quinn, 65, who turned a rural quarrying operation on his family farm into a 4 billion euro globe-spanning empire, has come to personify the rapid unravelling of Ireland's "Celtic Tiger" economy.
His use of loans to make ill-fated investments in Anglo Irish Bank ANGIB.UL, has left the failed lender, recently renamed Irish Bank Resolution Corp (IBRC), pursuing him for debts of up to 2.9 billion euros in a global treasure hunt stretching from courtrooms in Belfast to the British Virgin Islands.
"I am adjudicating Mr Quinn, I do so on the basis and in accordance with the insolvency regulations," Justice Elizabeth Dunne said. Lawyers, for Quinn, who was not in court, said he would not be contesting the ruling.
Quinn had tried to be declared insolvent in British-controlled Northern Ireland, which has a less onerous bankruptcy regime. That declaration was overturned by a court in Belfast last week after IBRC had contested it.
Under Irish law, a bankrupt person is prevented from creating or managing a company in Ireland for a minimum of five years and possibly up to 12 years.
Under UK law, a person is discharged from bankruptcy after one year, an easier regime that has prompted a number of casualties of Ireland's financial crisis to go to Britain to clean up their financial affairs in a route dubbed "bankruptcy tourism."
Quinn has lost control of his empire, which spanned wind farms, cement plants and hotels in countries as diverse as India, Sweden and the Ukraine but IBRC is fighting legal battles to gain ownership of his properties.
Ireland's High Court has assigned an official to take over all of Quinn's assets. The father of five, who used to fly around Europe on his Falcon jet sealing property deals, has said he has lost everything and is down to his last 11,000 euros, an aging Mercedes and 166 acres of land.
His palatial home, close to the Irish border, is owned by his children.
Quinn's wife and children are battling IBRC over the legality of the bank's loans to the family and are due to mount a court challenge to them later this year.
Quinn is still regarded as a hero for creating thousands of jobs in Cavan where locals have held rallies in recent months to show their support for him. New executives at the Quinn Group have also been subjected to a series of attacks, including arson. Quinn has condemned the attacks, which included a fire at the Quinn Group HQ at the weekend.
Quinn Insurance business, which was put into administration in 2009, was recently bought by U.S. general insurer Liberty Mutual LBRTML.UL and its healthcare arm was sold to management last month in a tie-up with Swiss reinsurer Swiss Re (SRENH.VX).
(Writing by Carmel Crimmins. Editing by Jane Merriman)