Irish News

Thursday 31 July 2014

Chilling log reveals scale of attacks on former Quinn group

Gardai ramp up investigation of attacks on former Quinn Group

Maeve Sheehan

Published 27/04/2014|02:30

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A bus abandoned and set on fire outside a Quinn factory in Cavan. Photo: Lorraine Teevan
A bus abandoned and set on fire outside a Quinn factory in Cavan. Photo: Lorraine Teevan
A burnt-out oil truck that was rammed into the headquarters of the Aventas Group (formerly known as the Quinn Group) in Derrylin, Co Fermanagh last December. Photo: Padraig O'Reilly
A burnt-out oil truck that was rammed into the headquarters of the Aventas Group (formerly known as the Quinn Group) in Derrylin, Co Fermanagh last December. Photo: Padraig O'Reilly
EXTENSIVE: Details of criminal damage, fire bombs, arson attacks, threats to executives and surveillance of their homes
EXTENSIVE: Details of criminal damage, fire bombs, arson attacks, threats to executives and surveillance of their homes

THE former Quinn Group has been subjected to almost 70 serious attacks and a litany of sustained sabotage since former tycoon Sean Quinn was ousted from his empire, the Sunday Independent can reveal.

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A chilling log of assaults on the Quinn Group, and related properties, reveals for the first time the sheer scale of the campaign of intimidation waged against the company's headquarters, its senior executives and its assets, since it was taken over by the former Anglo Irish Bank in April 2011.

The log, obtained by the Sunday Independent, details fire bombs, arson attacks, criminal damage, threats to senior executives and their homes put under surveillance.

The attacks escalated late last year when the former Quinn Group was rebranded Aventas, in an attempt to develop and sell off the businesses. The log has been released by Aventas to gardai who have ramped up their investigation into what they now believe to be an organised campaign, enacted by criminals and aided by dissident republicans, possibly under the direction of a mystery orchestrator.

A convicted criminal who was recently released from prison for stealing plant machinery is among the suspects linked to the latest spate of attacks. The man, who lives in the border counties, is suspected of supplying vehicles and tools for the attacks.

In recent months the attacks have extended from the former Quinn Group companies and their executives to those planning to do business with them.

One company, CEVA, cancelled a transport contract with Aventas this month after intruders rammed a transit van into the entrance gates of its premises at Little Island in Cork.

Meanwhile, the Lagan Group, one of Northern Ireland's biggest construction firms, pulled out of buying Quinn Roof Tiles earlier this month. Kevin Lagan, its chairman, received death threats in the post on the same day that his wife died. A year ago, he was sent bullets in the post after reports of a possible joint venture with the Quinns.

"These are strategic attacks to prevent the break-up of the Quinn company," a garda source told the Sunday Independent this weekend.

"It would appear that these attacks are targeted to put buyers off."

The garda investigation is now focusing on who is driving the criminal gang and renegade republicans and whether there is a quid pro quo for carrying out the attacks.

The first recorded attacks occurred the day after Sean Quinn was locked out of his business.

The former Anglo appointed share receivers to the Quinn Group on April 14, 2011. Within 24 hours a string of power outages and blockades were staged at the Quinn Group's headquarters in Ballyconnell, Co Cavan, and Derrylin in Fermanagh.

The attacks intensified over the following months to include threatening text messages to the new management team, threatening phone calls, and executives being followed.

Seventeen Northern Ireland electricity poles were cut down between May and June in 2011, to stop the power supply to Quinn Glass.

The first arson attack was recorded on May 15, 2011, with an attack on an electricity substation to cut the power supply, but it quickly became a hallmark of the offensive against the group.

In July, five vehicles were destroyed by fire and two weeks later a car owned by the new group chief executive, Paul O'Brien, was firebombed in the driveway of his home.

According to the Aventas document, there were "countless other" incidents that year such as diesel pumps being sabotaged so that delivery trucks couldn't refuel. Over one four-month period, "steel spikes were scattered on the roads" to shred the tyres of security vehicles.

The number of attacks declined in 2012 but they have since intensified, with shocking personal threats made to people hoping to do with business with the Quinn Group.

Gardai have linked the latest escalation in the campaign to the rebranding of the Quinn Group as Aventas in November last year.

IBRC, which is locked in a legal battle with the Quinn family over a €2.8bn debt, owns three-quarters of the company, and other Quinn creditors and hedge funds own the remainder.

Aventas promised to put up to €50m into the some of the former Quinn Group businesses, but its efforts to sell off others have been scuppered by the sabotage campaign.

A group of businessmen in the region, along with a former executive in the Quinn Group, launched a bid to buy back the manufacturing arm of the business in February.

Sean Quinn has repeatedly condemned the attacks, saying that those behind them were not acting in his name. He and his family have repeatedly called on whoever is responsible to stop.

Sunday Independent

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