LAWYERS for bankrupt businessman Sean Quinn have made an impassioned plea for him to kept out of prison.
The High Court is packed with supporters and observers as judge Ms Justice Elizabeth Dunne considers whether Ireland’s former richest man should go to jail.
The 66 year old has “serious” health problems including heart disease which has required a series of stent surgeries.
He continues to deny that he had any part on the detail of the implementation of an asset stripping plan to put up to €500m worth of overseas properties beyond the reach of the former Anglo Irish Bank.
And he insists he had no part in the plan from April 4, 2011 when share receivers were appointed to The Quinn Group.
Mr Quinn Snr denied any breach of court orders and has appealed to the Supreme Court, but he acknowledged responsibility for the original strategy.
He accepts that the unfortunate unravelling of the plan to put assets beyond the reach of the IBRC (formerly Anglo), but says many of the assets may never be recovered.
Talks have broken down between Mr Quinn Snr and the IBRC, but he is doing his best to co-operate, the High Court heard.
“At this stage he stands before you historically as one of Ireland’s leading entrepreneurs and now clearly a man bereft of economic and financial dignity,” said his barrister Eugene Grant QC in a lengthy and impassioned plea for mitigation.
The High Court heard that Mr Quinn worked 50 weeks a year for more than 30 years and was a “leading light” before he got involved with Anglo Irish Bank.
“It is important to stress he is 66 years of age with a totally clear and unblemished record and until these affairs with Anglo he stood tall as a leading light,” said Mr Grant who said Mr Quinn Snr had signed numerous documents requested by the IBRC.
“It is no understatement that he was truly over 30 years a wealth creator and a self made man,” said Mr Grant adding that Sean Quinn Snr is regarded as an iconic figure in the border areas.
Mr Quinn was supported in court by his son Sean Quinn Jnr who has just recently emerged from Dublin’s Mountjoy Prison after serving a three month jail sentence for contempt of court.
The court had previously heard that Mr Quinn had “given his imprimatur” to an asset stripping plan designed to put IPG assets beyond the reach of the IBRC.
Mr Grant said that the 66 year old wanted to proceed with the punitive element of his sentence for contempt of court as the threat of jail had been “hanging over him” for four months.
Mr Grant said the court should not consider imprisoning him today.
“That should not occur” said Mr Grant, referencing his right to personal liberty and freedom from arbitrary detention.
“We recognise that that is not an absolute right,” said Mr Grant.
“We take some comfort from the dicta of Judge Hardiman in the Supreme Court who said that application to sentence [for contempt] had to be approached with great caution.
“It is in effect a summary criminal trial,” said Mr Grant who added that the possibility of jail stigmatises Mr Quinn and deprives him of his liberty.
“It is my impassioned plea, in respect of the punitive aspect of the orders, not to imprison Sean Quinn Snr,” said the Belfast based criminal lawyer.
The hearing continues.