Only debtors who have their centre of main interest (COMI) in England and Wales can have themselves declared bankrupt in this country. The High Court made that point in annulling the bankruptcy of an overseas national who failed to provide sufficient evidence that she had genuinely made England her home.
The woman, a Bulgarian citizen, obtained a bankruptcy order in England soon after she became subject to a judgment debt in excess of £200,000. The judgment creditor applied to annul the order on the basis that it was made without jurisdiction in that, when she applied for it, her COMI was in Bulgaria, rather than England and Wales.
In asserting that she was habitually resident in England and had her COMI here, she said that she had worked and studied extensively in this country and had a permanent address here. She had formed a professional and social circle of connections that enabled her to state that England was her home.
Upholding the creditor’s claim, however, the Court noted, amongst other things, that there was no evidence that she had engaged in economic activity in this country at the relevant time. She had strong family and other ties to Bulgaria and had provided no evidence that she had security of tenure in respect of her address in England.
The evidence did not support a genuine change of habitual residence from Bulgaria to England. On the contrary, it demonstrated an attempt by her to create an illusion of habitual residence in this country. Her COMI thus remained in Bulgaria. The annulment of her bankruptcy removed an obstacle in the path of the creditor’s attempts to enforce the judgment debt.