Thursday 23 October 2014

Freed Sean Quinn Snr remains defiant but fears return to jail

Locals give big welcome home as bankrupt businessman enjoys ‘normal family time’

David Young, Louise Hogan and Greg Harkin

Published 04/01/2013 | 05:00

Sean Quinn cradles his granddaughter Orna, who was christened during his temporary release from jail over Christmas, during a BBC interview yesterday
A welcome sign in Virginia

BANKRUPT former tycoon Sean Quinn has expressed fears about being sent back to jail, just hours after he was released from Mountjoy Prison.

The one-time billionaire walked free from the prison's training unit after serving a nine-week sentence for contempt of court.

He defiantly said: "I certainly felt I shouldn't be there, after creating 7,000 jobs – after never in my life did I owe anyone a penny. Never in my life did I steal a penny that didn't belong to me. I felt it was just wrong."

Friends said that Mr Quinn was relaxing with his family and enjoying his first day of freedom, mindful that he could be jailed again when proceedings resume in the High Court on January 14.

Charade

In an interview with BBC Northern Ireland, he was filmed cradling his baby granddaughter Orna, who was christened during his temporary release from jail over Christmas.

But the 66-year-old said a return to jail was possible if the "charade" being pursued against his family in the courts continued. "Can we go back to jail? Yes we can," he said.

His family is currently embroiled in a bitter legal battle with the former Anglo Irish Bank – now nationalised and rebranded as the Irish Bank Resolution Corporation (IBRC).

Mr Quinn was heavily critical of the bank and of those who had taken over the running of his administration-hit empire.

But he insisted that the family had not been defeated. "The Quinns are not killed off," he said, adding: "The Quinns are still there."

He was jailed in November for not purging his contempt in the High Court for his role in an asset-stripping plot.

High Court judge Elizabeth Dunne found that Mr Quinn, his son, Sean Quinn Jnr, and nephew, Peter Darragh Quinn, had consciously defied and misled the courts.

After his release, Ireland's one-time richest man said the hardest thing about prison was the amount of time he was locked in his cell.

"I found it tough but when you come to 66 years of age I suppose you have been through many a thing over that period. I could fit into most environments and I fitted in," he said.

"Of course when you find a door slamming at nine o'clock at night and you close for the night, it's not nice.

"It's not something I'm used to and it's not something I felt I deserved."

Mr Quinn said he received a positive reaction from fellow prisoners, claiming: "100pc of them felt I shouldn't be there."

He said his experience in Mountjoy made him feel lucky for the family and friends that he has at home. "I wouldn't call it frightening but it would certainly make you think," he said.

After his release, his daughter Ciara Quinn said that he was having some "normal" family time.

"We're delighted to have dad home," Ms Quinn said. "We are back in front of the court on January 14, where we anticipate we will be joining the Financial Regulator and the Department of Finance to our case."

Her father was driven back to the luxurious home on the outskirts of Ballyconnell in Co Cavan yesterday.

Locals welcomed his release from prison, while in nearby Virginia the 10ft wide "Welcome home Sean Quinn" sign held aloft by a JCB left little doubt as to the mood. At the SuperValu supermarket in Ballyconnell, owner Padraig Donohue, a friend of the fallen tycoon, was discussing the year ahead with campaigner Patricia Gilheaney.

"We hate the way this has been portrayed as parish pump politics when it is not," said Ms Gilheaney.

"We hope that neither Sean nor Sean Jnr has to go back to prison in 2013. They've suffered enough."

But even as Mr Quinn was released, his successor to the helm of the Quinn Group said that the family would not be regaining control of their companies even if they do eventually win their battle.

Paul O'Brien, the chief executive of the Quinn Group since April 2011, said the manufacturing business was "fine" and there was no "going back".

"Even if they won the case, they don't get their companies back. It is only a claim for damages. That is a big misunderstanding," Mr O'Brien told 'The Impartial Reporter'.

However, Mr Quinn's daughter Colette later hit back and claimed that banks and bondholders had benefited from the "takeover".

Mr Quinn was granted compassionate leave for three days to spend Christmas with his family and returned to Mountjoy on December 27 to serve the remaining week of his sentence.

Sean Quinn Jnr has offered to sell the penthouse apartment he shares with wife Karen on the outskirts of Dublin's Phoenix Park to demonstrate his willingness to purge contempt.

Peter Darragh Quinn remains on the run after he fled to Northern Ireland.

Irish Independent

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