Friday 19 January 2018

Sean Quinn’s dilemma – help find €500m or go to jail

Sean Quinn
Sean Quinn Jr
Peter Darragh Quinn

Dearbhail McDonald Legal Editor

BANKRUPT Sean Quinn faces an indefinite spell in jail if he does not help the former Anglo Irish Bank regain control of assets worth hundreds of millions of euro.

And even if he agrees to help free up the tangled web of overseas assets, Mr Quinn could still be jailed.

That is because an angry High Court judge yesterday said he had "consciously misled" the court over his dealings.

Ms Justice Elizabeth Dunne said she would find it difficult to hand down a sentence without a "punitive element" (jail time). She found Mr Quinn, his son Sean Quinn Jnr and nephew Peter Quinn were in contempt of court for putting assets beyond the bank's reach. That was despite High Court injunctions not to do so.

The bank is now struggling to regain control of the Quinn family's €500m international property portfolio. And it will need help from the businessmen to reverse the complex financial moves that have put the assets beyond reach.

Ms Justice Dunne will decide what sanctions to impose on Friday. But sources within the bank believe the businessmen would be of more use working with them -- rather than in jail -- as the bank attempts to untangle the transactions.

Last night, the bank was drafting a wish list of orders it will ask the High Court to impose.

It is expected to ask Ms Justice Dunne to force the men to help it regain control of:

- The $143m (€114m) Kutuzoff Tower in Moscow.

- The $78m (€62m) Ukrania Shopping Centre in Ukraine.

- An $80m (€64m) office block in Hyderabad, India.

- An estimated €35m rent from the Quinn's International Property Group (IPG).

The bank is involved in more than 30 legal battles in seven different countries to secure the Quinn family's overseas assets.

Tonight Anglo -- now known as the Irish Bank Resolution Corporation (IBRC) -- will tell the judge what it wants from the Quinns.

Properties based in Ireland, the UK, the Czech Republic and Turkey have been secured by the bank. But the real battleground includes properties in the Ukraine, Russia and India, which are still being pursued by IBRC.

Ms Justice Dunne said the level of co-operation from the Quinns would have a bearing on the severity of her decision.

All three men had admitted trying to put valuable overseas assets beyond the reach of the IBRC. But they insisted that any steps they had taken were before the High Court obtained an injunction against them last year ordering them not to interfere.

Asked outside court what his reaction to the judgment was, Sean Quinn Snr insisted that he was "not dishonest".

Ms Justice Dunne found that all three had been "untruthful" at times to the court and obstructed Anglo's contempt proceedings "every step of the way".

She found that the men had "consciously misled" courts in Ireland and abroad and said that some of the evidence of the men was "frankly unbelievable".

She was scathing in her criticism of the Quinns and ruled that Peter Quinn, former head of the IPG, was "evasive, less than forthright, obstructive, uncooperative and, at times, untruthful".

"I came to the conclusion that he would have said and done anything to aid the plan he conceived to put assets beyond the reach of Anglo," said Ms Justice Dunne.

She said Sean Quinn Snr was evasive and uncooperative and that on a number of occasions during the contempt hearing, rather than answer questions put to him, he embarked on lengthy criticisms of Anglo.

She said she found it impossible to accept his evidence that he had no hand, act or part in the matter after April 2011 following the appointment of a share receiver, adding that his evidence to that effect was "not credible".

She also found that Sean Quinn Jnr was not telling the truth in giving his evidence to the court.

Assets

The Quinns accepted they owe the bank some €455m but denied owing it an additional €2.3bn, she said. Instead of trying to repay the admitted debt, the Quinn family, and especially the three, had taken "every step possible" to put assets beyond the bank's reach.

Sean Quinn Snr had during his evidence spoken of the Quinn Group and its importance as an employer of some 7,000 people, she said. He had also spoken of the "honourable, respectable" way in which the businesses of the Quinn Group were run.

"I wish I could say the same about the manner in which the respondents have dealt with the adverse circumstances in which they now find them-selves," Ms Justice Dunne said.

The behaviour of the three was "as far removed from the concept of honour and respect-ability as it is possible to be".

The IBRC said that bringing this contempt motion was a valid and necessary step for the bank to take.

"The proven, planned, covert and illicit actions taken by the Quinns and connected parties have resulted in millions of euro being lost or put at risk," said CEO Mike Aynsley.

Irish Independent

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