Quinn family wins right to fight Anglo over alleged illegal loans
Blow for bank after judge gives green light over €1.8bn debt
Published 24/02/2012 | 05:00
SEAN Quinn's wife and children won the first round of their epic battle with the former Anglo Irish Bank yesterday after the High Court confirmed the family's right to argue that loans worth about €1.8bn were "unlawful".
But the newly renamed Irish Bank Resolution Corporation (IBRC) insisted last night that there was "no basis whatsoever to any of the claims being made by the Quinn family" and said the bank would continue to seek "full repayment".
The Commercial Court ruling came after IBRC asked Mr Justice Peter Charleton to find that the Quinn family could not claim that the €1.8bn of loans were unlawful. The family wants to make those claims in an upcoming challenge to IBRC's seizure of the Quinn Group and a foreign property portfolio worth €500m last April.
Yesterday's ruling, which legal sources say may have implications for other cases, means the family are a step closer to avoiding liability for the loans if they can prove their claims that the funds were advanced by IBRC to various Quinn companies for the unlawful purpose of supporting the bank's share price.
But IBRC last night insisted that it would proceed with a "full defence and counterclaim" against the Quinns' allegations "up to and including a full trial of the matter". The bank said that the cost of the trial would have been "substantially reduced" had the judge found in their favour.
Legal sources believe the case will last several months and is likely to cost more than €30m, though Mr Justice Charleton made suggestions aimed at reducing costs and length of the hearing, which has not yet got a set date.
In his ruling, Mr Justice Charleton ruled the family were entitled to advance claims they can avoid liability for loans if they prove those loans were made for "wholesale" market manipulation in breach of Irish and European law.
There may also be a portion of "legitimate debt" involved, he added, a reference to Anglo's claim that €500m loans are unrelated to the allegedly unlawful loans.
That could result in a proper apportionment of legitimate and illegitimate debt at the end of this case if the Quinns proved their claims, he noted.
He rejected Anglo's claims that the European Union's market abuse directive and other laws "ring-fenced" matters to the extent the courts could not prevent enforcement of an illegal contract.
It would be "contrary to public policy" if the family were to be shut out from responding to the "flagrant illegality" they allege against both Anglo and Sean Quinn Snr via such "horrific" transactions, as alleged, he said.
Patricia Quinn and her five adult children who are seeking to avoid liability for total loans of €2.34bn, including €1.8bn allegedly illegally made from September 2007 to the maintenance of a significant stake in Anglo Irish Bank.
IBRC denies the family's claims and also contends €500m of loans were unrelated to the money that was used to maintain the position in the bank's own shares.