THE €500m international property row between Anglo Irish Bank and the Quinn family could take "up to five years" to resolve if the Quinns succeed in having the case heard in Cyprus, it emerged yesterday.
Details of the lengthy legal process emerged as lawyers for the Quinns attempted to convince Mr Justice Frank Clarke that he should refuse to hear Anglo's action against the family since Cyprus has "exclusive jurisdiction" on the matters.
Yesterday marked the first time Anglo and the Quinns squared off against each other in an Irish courtroom and gave the first insight into the Quinns' defence against claims that they have unlawfully taken assets out of the international property group.
Affidavits referenced for the first time show that the bank is now alleging the Quinns have taken "further significant steps" to transfer international property assets out of Anglo's reach in recent weeks.
Yesterday, the Cork Circuit Court heard the Quinns are arguing that they were entitled to carry out transfers that have been dubbed "unlawful" by Anglo. The Quinns are also "disputing" Anglo's allegations that the family tried to set up a mirror corporate structure to assume assets of the international property group.
Yesterday's clash comes three weeks after Anglo launched a legal action to ban the Quinns from interfering with any assets in the international property portfolio the bank wants to use against the Quinns' €2.8bn debts.
After the action was lodged, the bank learnt that the Quinns had already begun a separate action in Cyprus and had gotten a temporary injunction banning Anglo from interfering with some of the same assets.
At the hearing, it also emerged that Anglo is now petitioning the Cypriot courts to refuse the Quinns' efforts to have the case heard there, on the basis that the issues at stake involve Irish residents, an Irish bank and agreements devised in Ireland.
The Quinns claim the pertinent legal agreements give "exclusive jurisdiction" to the courts in Cyprus, where some of the international property companies are registered.
Yesterday, Anglo's senior counsel Paul Gallagher insisted the legal agreements gave no such exclusive jurisdiction to the Cypriot court and rejected arguments that the case should be heard in Cyprus because the Cypriot action was lodged first.
Anglo is arguing that the Cyprus case and the Ireland case have "overlap" but are not the same. It also argues a case taken by the Quinns on May 20, where the family is suing Anglo for the way it took control of the Quinn Group, deals with similar issues to the Cypriot case, making the Irish courts the first port of call.
The Quinns' senior counsel Bill Shipsey stressed that having the Irish case and the Cypriot case run concurrently raised the risk of "irreconcilable judgments" and argued that the Irish case should be "consolidated" with the Cypriot one.
If the judge wasn't willing to dismiss the Irish case outright, he should "at the very least" put a stay on it, Mr Shipsey told the court.
Mr Justice Clarke said he wanted to take "some time" to consider the submissions made by the two sides, but pointed out that if he didn't begin hearing the substantive case today it would not be heard until the next legal term.
Lawyers for both sides said they would come back to him this morning and advise him of how they wished to proceed.