A solicitor in Leicester has helped Irish clients escape more than â‚¬1bn (Â£798m) of debt by taking advantage of a booming trade in â€œbankruptcy tourismâ€.
Data seen by the Guardian reveal Steve Thatcher, who runs the new advisory service www.irishbankruptcyuk.com boasts at least 55 clients in the process of clearing some â‚¬1.2bn by using UK courts to wipe out loans taken out in the republic. One property speculator wrote off â‚¬150m during a 35-second court appearance.
While bankrupts in the UK face only one year in financial purdah, in Ireland it is 12 years â€“ despite promises of reform from the Dublin government.
Such is the stigma still associated with bankruptcy in Ireland that â€œMichaelâ€ and â€œMaryâ€ are unwilling to give their real names after they used the UK courts to write off nearly â‚¬320,000 of negative equity and other debts. They fear that in Ireland they could be blacklisted from jobs if potential employers knew they were bankrupts.