Author Alan Duff has finally declared himself bankrupt in France, ending a three-year wait by creditors owed $3.6 million. But their chances of recovering debts may be slim.
Duff, 61, declared himself bankrupt on June 16 in the village of Evres-sur-Indre in the Loire Valley.
The author of Once Were Warriors gave his occupation as "writer without regular income" and he was listed as being employed.
He listed his address as the 17th-century Chateau de la Doree, once home to exotic dancer and World War I double agent Mata Hari.
His bankruptcy will be handled by an official assignee in Napier, and creditors will be informed of the situation in the next few weeks. If he returns to New Zealand he will need to apply to the official assignee before leaving again.
Duff was on the brink of bankruptcy in 2008 but avoided it after all but one of his 25 creditors agreed to give him until May last year to pay the debts.
He moved to France in an effort to write his way out of debt. He has since published two novels, Dreamboat Dad and Who Sings for Lu?. Sales were modest and a third planned novel has not eventuated yet. Creditors have not received any payments.
One of those creditors, Erin Begley, died of cancer in November 2009. Mrs Begley, who was 66, and her sister Deirdre are owed $424,000. Mrs Begley's daughter, Kelly Kirkwood, who cared for her mother as she was dying, said Duff should have gone bankrupt years ago.
John Waymouth, lawyer for Mutual Finance, which is owed $36,000, said the company's position as the only creditor to vote against the insolvency proposal had been vindicated.
"Duff's original insolvency agreement was clearly fiction in terms of his ability to repay his creditors. That has been proven by the fact that not one cent has ever been forthcoming.
"Those same creditors have suffered for almost four years of prevarication while Duff spent time overseas in France – apparently hiding from the realities of his hopelessly insolvent position," Mr Waymouth said. "Justice has finally been done, so his creditors may now receive some entitlement that they should have had years ago."
Since leaving New Zealand, Duff has made several trips home to Havelock North. He joined the prestigious Hastings Golf Club in 2009, sparking outrage among his creditors.
He has also returned to support the Alan Duff Charitable Foundation, better known as Duffy Books in Homes, which provides books to children.
- The Dominion Post