Tuesday 23 January 2018

Judge Kelly says Quinns’ scheme 'reeked of dishonesty’

Sean Quinn outside court last week
Sean Quinn Jnr
Peter Darragh Quinn

Tim Healy

A JUDGE has described as "mesmerisingly complex" a scheme devised by bankrupt businessman Sean Quinn and members of his family to put multi-million assets beyond the reach of the former Anglo Irish Bank.

It was done "to feather their own nests" and was the largest and most devious seen to date in the Commercial Court, Mr Justice Peter Kelly said.

The judge said he has presided over the Commercial Court since 2004 and regrettably was having to deal more often with cases involving "national and international fraud, sharp practice, chicanery and dishonesty".

However, he had never seen anything like the conduct in this case.

He made the remarks when granting an application by Irish Bank Resolution Corporation, formerly Anglo, for appointment of Declan Taite as receiver over the worldwide assets of various Quinn family members and over various foreign companies based in Belize, Panama, Russia and United Arab Emirates allegedly linked to the assets-stripping. The Quinns consented to those orders.

The judge also granted IBRC orders pending the outcome of full legal proceedings freezing the accounts of various Qunn family members below €50m.

The Quinns also consented to those orders and filed no replying affidavits.

The judge said, on the uncontradicted evidence before him, it seemed the Quinns had deliberately created and operated a scheme of mesmeric complexity, reeking of dishonesty and sharp practice, for the two-fold objective of putting assets beyond the bank's reach and to feather this own nests.

While a court could not make a final or binding decision on an interlocutory application, it had to be said all the evidence "points in one direction" in this case.

Faced with all this, any court "worth its salt" would make such orders as it legitimately could if that would bring an end to "such wrongdoing".

He had no hesitation continuing the orders freezing the accounts or taking the more unusual step of appointing receivers over the Quinns' worldwide assets and accounts, he said. Despite what may be said to the contrary, the courts are always open and prepared to take drastic action to ensure their orders are not evaded and the receiver should get full and total co-operation, he stressed.

The orders apply to Sean Quinn's five adult children, nephew Peter Darragh Quinn, two sons in law Stephen Kelly and Niall Mc Partland, a number of foreign companies and any other party aware of the making of the orders.

The effect of the orders is to freeze the defendants' accounts and appoint receivers over their assets, except for family homes, certain joint accounts and certain future earnings of some members of the family unrelated to their international property group.

An interim account freezing order, returnable to Tuesday, was also granted against Karen Woods, who married Sean Quinn Junior earlier this year.

The bank will on Tuesday also seek appointment of a receiver over her assets.

The defendant Quinns, plus Sean Quinn Senior, are also to swear individual affidavits disclosing their income and assets.

The defendants must also state what living expenses they require. The judge will decide the sums to be allocated for those expenses on Tuesday.

The defendant companies are also required to disclose income and assets.

Following an agreement between the Quinns and the bank, they had been granted up to €2,000 each in weekly living expenses since interim freezing orders were made earlier this month.

Those expenses applied to the interlocutory hearing but the bank has indicated it may not consent to similar future expenses.

The judge will also on Tuesday deal with an application by the law firm Eversheds to be permitted cease representing Peter Daragh Quinn due to inability to take instructions since he went missing last Friday.

Interim account freezing orders were granted earlier this month arising from a number of developments affecting the bank's proceedings, initiated last year, aimed at protecting up to €500m assets in the Quinn's IPG.

The bank sought continuation of the freezing orders, plus the appointment of receivers as a result of developments which it said showed the defendants could not be trusted not to dissipate assets.

Those developments including the finding last month by Ms Justice Elizabeth Dunne of "outrageous" contempt by Sean Quinn senior, Sean Junior and Peter Darragh Quinn of orders of June and July 2011 restraining dissipation of assets in the IPG.

Last week, Ms Justice Dunne jailed Sean Jnr and Peter Darragh for three months over that contempt and directed Sean Snr should remain free for the purpose of taking further steps to unwind the asset stripping scheme. A warrant has been issued for the arrest of Peter darragh who did not attend that court hearing while Sean Jnr remains in prison.

Other developments included publication of a video recording of a meeting in Ukraine in January 2012 which, the bank claimed, showed Sean Jnr and Peter Darragh discussing movement of funds and also showed Peter Darragh was willing to lie to the court.

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