DPP seeks third deferral of Quinn family action aimed at avoiding liability for €2.34bn loans
Published 03/06/2015 | 12:50
The Director of Public Prosecutions is seeking a third deferral of the full hearing of the marathon action by the wife and family of businessman Sean Quinn aimed at avoiding liability for €2.34bn loans made to Quinn companies.
A decision on the deferral application will be made later today by Mr Justice Robert Haughton after the DPP clarifies the position on estimated length of the adjournment.
State owned Irish Bank Resolution Corporation also intends to proceed with its application for an indemnity against Sean Quinn Senior, whom it previously joined as a third party to the case, should the family win. Mr Quinn Senior will be the first witness in the case whenever it proceeds, the court also heard today.
The case by Mrs Patricia Quinn and her five adult children, initiated in May 2011, was due to open today and to run for at least six months.
Court number six of the Four Courts has been specially allocated and fitted out with appropriate computer technology while teams of lawyers and large numbers of media were in a packed court this morning in anticipation of the opening.
Three of the Quinn children - Aoife, Brenda and Sean Junior - were in court as were Stephen Kelly, husband of Aoife, and Niall McPartland, husband of Ciara Quinn.
The full hearing date was previously deferred twice due to the fact of separate criminal proceedings against former executives of Anglo Irish Bank.
Because criminal proceedings against former Anglo Chairman Sean Fitzpatrick, due to open last April, were this week deferred for hearing in October, the DPP today sought another deferral of the Quinns' case pending the determination of the proceedings involving Mr Fitzpatrick.
The DPP could not guarantee there would be no further adjournments sought but would be very slow to seek any further adjournment, counsel said in reply to Mr Justice Haughton.
Lawyers for the parties did not formally oppose the stay application but the Quinns and State-owned Irish Bank Resolution Corporation both said they were anxious to get the case on and wold oppose a long adjournment.
The judge has adjourned the application to this afternoon to allow instructions be taken from the DPP concerning the proposed length of the adjournment.
Earlier, Paul Anthony McDermott BL, for the DPP, said the Director considered there was "a direct clash" between issues in this case and in that involving Mr Fitzpatrick.
The DPP's concern was the risk of contaminating the criminal proceedings was so great she must reluctantly seek to stay the Quinns action. The parties in this case would be aware of the extent to which Mr Fitzpatrick would potentially feature in the Quinns case and the potential for overlap, he added.
Martin Hayden SC, for the Quinns, said his side was extremely disappointed and frustrated this stay application was being made but was adopting a neutral position on it.
His side were very anxious to get their case on but the "last thing" the Quinns wanted was to have their civil action affect the prosecution of former executives of Anglo, he said.
The Quinns were also opposed to the case proceeding with reporting restriction applying to it, he said. His clients had been "villifed at every turn" relating to their alleged conduct and were entitled to have their case fully heard without any reporting restrictions, he said.
Earlier, counsel said Mr Fitzpatrick would be a witness in this case concerning certain matters and proceeded to read out a number of claims made by the Quinns in their pleadings.
Mr McDermott intervened to say the media should be careful in terms of reporting issues concerning Mr Fitzpatrick in circumstances where a jury was due to be sworn in on October 5th.
Paul Gallagher SC, for Irish Bank Resolution Corporation, said his side were very anxious to get the case on and were concerned how long the adjournment might be. He was conscious another criminal trial arising from matters involving Anglo Irish Bank was fixed for January 2016 which might impact this case and IBRC wanted this case to be heard prior to those proceedings.
The Quinns position had changed very substantially since the last stay application and he was concerned they appeared intent on making more allegations despite a Supreme Court decision last March, to the effect the loans made unlawfully may still be enforceable, and would not agree to any reporting restrictions.
He noted the Quinns were saying Mr Fitzpatrick would be the focus of certain claims.
There was a public interest in resolving matters relating to IBRC and while he could not say his side would be prejudiced by a further adjournment, he concern was how long that adjournment might be.
In reply, Mr McDermott said it appeared there was no immediate overlap between the January 2016 trial referred to, involving a number of former officials of Anglo, and the Quinns case. While he could not guarantee there would not be another adjournment application, any such application would only be made if absolutely necessary.
The Quinns case has been brought against IBRC and its special liquidator Kieran Wallace. Last mmonth, Mr Justice Haughton ruled the family could proceed with their claims some €2.34bn loans by Anglo to various Quinn companies were made for the unlawful purpose of propping up the bank's share price.
However, the Quinns cannot continue to purse those apsects of their claim alleging the loans are unenforceable, he said.
In their action, the Quinns dispute the validity of share pledges and guarantees provided as security for loans made by the former Anglo Irish Bank to Quinn companies. Those loans, the Quinns claim, were made for the unlawful purpose of propping up the bank’s plummeting share price.
The defendants previously joined Sean Quinn senior and two former senior executives of the Quinn group, Liam McCaffrey and Dara O’Reilly, as third parties. The bank claims the third parties at all times acted as agents of the Quinns concerning the execution of share pledges and guarantees. The Quinns deny those claims.
Last month, Shane Murphy SC, for IBRC, said his side intended to bring a motion seeking judgment against Sean Quinn Senior. Counsel indicated the motion arose from a previous decision by the Official Assignee in bankruptcy not to defend the bank's application for judgment against Mr Quinn. The Assignee's decision was made while Mr Quinn was still a bankrupt and, under bankruptcy legislation, a bankrupt cannot bring or defend court proceedings on their own behalf. Mr Quinn has since exited from bankruptcy.
Today, Laurence Brennan, a solicitor for Mr Quinn, said his side had been served with the IBRC motion and this was a serious matter for his client.
Mr Justice Haughton indicated the motion relating to Mr Quinn Senior would be dealt with at a later stage.