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How Bono's friend ended up singing for his supper

HIS financial position may have been -- to use his own words -- "precarious" but Derek Quinlan could always find time for a morning coffee and a cigar with some old friends in Cafe de Paris in Monaco.

The testimony of the poster boy of the Celtic Tiger has been eagerly anticipated in court throughout the intriguing case about the ownership of three London hotels, but eyebrows were still raised when the details of Mr Quinlan's lifestyle emerged this week.

It involves homes and properties in Switzerland, Dublin and London, Bono being name-dropped into proceedings and a healthy friendship with two of the most powerful men in British media that was consolidated by an apparent gift of a £10m (€12.2m) property in Chelsea.

Detailed witness statements stretching to almost 100 pages show how the 64-year-old Mr Quinlan, the only child of an army officer and a nurse, left Blackrock College in 1965 and beat the well-trodden path to UCD before joining the civil service in the mid-1970s as a tax inspector.

Leaving for the private sector in 1981, he joined an accountancy practice as a partner before graduating over the years into his own practice and moving into the property world.

In 1998, the Quinlan Partnership was born, evolving into Quinlan Private, and his fortunes blossomed for years afterwards.

Among the major deals was the purchase of the Maybourne hotel group which then comprised of Claridges, The Berkeley, The Connaught and the Savoy -- all prime hotels which could only but elevate the status of its investors.

Soon after the Savoy was sold off to a Middle-Eastern interest with Bono being brought on board a yacht to attend the final negotiations.

The downturn was not far off and by 2010 Mr Quinlan was a face associated with the death of the Celtic Tiger.

This, however, seemed to have a limited effect on his private life -- despite the protestations of Nama.

Variously living in Switzerland, on the advice of his accountants, and London, Mr Quinlan's lifestyle attracted criticism.

Yesterday, the court heard details of how he had a "chance meeting" with David Barclay in Sardinia in July 2010, while he was there to meet Qatari associates. The Qataris had the biggest boat in the harbour at 400 ft; the Barclay one was only 200ft.

Some time after he would regularly be meeting the Barclay brothers, friends of his since 2005, for coffee, a cigar and a chat about world affairs in Cafe de Paris.

A few months later and he was forced to ask his friends, who had offered to help him out after he gave them a £10m Chelsea site for a nominal £1 to site a school, for assistance with a Swiss tax bill. How times had changed.

Irish Independent