Saturday 16 December 2017

Sean Quinn – from billionaire to bankrupt

Sean Quinn. Photo: PA
Sean Quinn. Photo: PA
Sarah Stack

Sarah Stack

SEAN Quinn was once a shrewd businessman whose billions made him Ireland's richest man.

Tonight that is at an ignominious end - he is a bankrupt pensioner who watched his son be jailed for a plot to save the family wealth.

Successful and respected long before the Celtic Tiger, the "Mighty Quinn" used the boom to build up an empire that spanned the world.

The court believes the family still does - and jailed his son and nephew for keeping valuable assets out of the control of a debt-laden Irish state-owned bank.

Sean Quinn Junior and his cousin, Peter Darragh Quinn, became the first high-profile people to be put behind bars for their financial dealings with the former Anglo Irish Bank - which famously brought down the entire Irish banking system and, in-turn, the economy.

Its bail-out alone cost the Stale almost €30bn.

A warrant was issued for Peter's arrest when he rang in sick for sentencing.

Sean Quinn Snr avoided jail to encourage him to take all steps necessary to put the missing assets - worth half a billion euro - back in the reach of Anglo, the judge warned.

That is a riches to rags story with an unimaginable ending.

A cement and quarry tycoon, who came from humble beginnings, Quinn has property investments as far as Russia, India and the Ukraine which Anglo - owned by the Irish taxpayers, who are desperate to get their hands on.

The once shrewd 65-year-old was saddled with debts of €2.8bn after be borrowed from Anglo to fund a massive and complex share investment in the scandal-hit bank.

He admits owing €455m.

His plight revealed all that was wrong with the country's boom, and subsequent bust, and the risky business of investing in what was once the developers' favourite financial institution, now rebranded as the Irish Bank Resolution Corporation (IBRC).

The former tycoon ran up unprecedented losses through the secret stock investments.

As the State took control of the zombie bank, and new management closed in on the family, the Quinns quickly moved to strip assets from their multi-million euro international property portfolio.

Just three weeks ago Quinn, his son and nephew were warned by a judge to reveal the extent of their assets and restore shareholdings of several firms which had been moved into shelf companies.

The judge said once again the Quinns have shown a complete disregard for orders - whether they are the orders of the Irish courts or corporate watchdogs.

The contempt case centres on the ownership and transfer of ownership of the €114m Kutuzoff Tower in Moscow; the €62m Ukrania Shopping Centre in Kiev; and a €64m office block in Hyderabad, India.

The Quinns first denied any role in the movement of shares and assets.

But leaked secret video footage has shown leading members of the family discussing what appears to be a multi-million euro cash deal in Kiev in January and an admission from Peter that he is prepared to lie to the court looking into the Quinns' affairs.

This was all at the time when they were the subject of Irish High Court orders forbidding them from disposing of the family's assets worldwide.

Even before the footage emerged, Judge Elizabeth Dunne accused the men of engaging in a complex, complicated and costly series of steps designed to put the assets of the Quinn's international property group beyond the reach of Anglo, in a blatant, dishonest and deceitful manner.

The contempt lawsuit is one of many court battles the Fermanagh-born businessman is fighting or has lost.

Last year he secured bankruptcy in Northern Ireland only for it to be overturned and a Dublin court then declared him bankrupt.

Just four years ago the notorious media-shy entrepreneur was Ireland's richest man, worth almost €5bon.

But his rise to the top, which he built on the back of a IR£100 loan, ended with the most painfall fall - a trusted son behind bars and a nephew wanted.

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