Tuesday 19 November 2019

Swiss financial guru may be the key to mystery of missing millions

Dearbhail McDonald

Dearbhail McDonald

IF he was stuck for new material, espionage writer John le Carre would not have to look much farther than Cavan's Quinn family and the dastardly former Anglo Irish Bank.

Le Carre has already toyed with the Irish in 'The Tailor of Panama', his novel that spawned the 2001 movie of the same name.

Now the machinations between Sean Quinn Snr, his family and Anglo -- their saviour-cum-nemesis -- bear all the hallmarks of a Le Carre classic.

The Quinn-Anglo saga is replete with tales of lost fortunes, missing millions, deception, double-crosses and lovers torn apart by prison walls. The IBRC (formerly Anglo) believes that Sean Quinn Snr, Ireland's former richest man and patriarch of the Quinn Group, is directing an audacious scheme to put up to €500m worth of foreign properties beyond its reach.

And the nationalised bank also believes Michael Waechter is the man who could unlock the key to the Quinns' missing millions -- including €35m in annual rents generated by International Property Group (IPG).

Mr Waechter is a Swiss-born guru in company structuring and wealth management who lives in Dubai. He works for the Senat Group, which has stand-alone companies in Dubai, Vaduz, Vienna and Zurich.

He also heads up Senat FZC in Dubai, holding itself out as the "trusted partner" for those keen to do business in the Middle East.

The IBRC first became aware of Mr Waechter when shares in Mack Soft, an Indian company that owns the Quinn family's €71m Q City office block in India, were transferred to Mecon FZE, a Dubai-registered entity whose ownership is unknown.

The bank believes Mecon is ultimately owned by the Quinns, though the family strenuously denies this.

It discovered that the domain name for Mecon's corporate website was registered by Mr Waechter.

And it also found that Peter Darragh Quinn, former head of IPG, went to Dubai on June 20, 2011. He told the High Court last March that he travelled at the request of Sean Quinn Snr, who wanted his nephew to get advice about a trust structure for the benefit of the Quinn grandchildren.

PETER met Mr Waechter in Dubai and asked him to buy eight offshore shelf companies in Panama and Belize "for the Quinn family" into which unsecured property assets belonging to the Quinns were apparently to be transferred.

It would later emerge that Senat's sister company in Dubai, Senat Legal, was acting as the "project manager" of the Quinn family's global litigation.

The full extent of Senat's alleged involvement with the Quinns and the movement of ownership of key IPG assets to offshore shelf companies was revealed in an unredacted email chain between Senat and Aleman, a Panamanian law firm.

The first version of the email chain appeared to name a number of Panamanian and Belize offshore companies, but their names had been edited out.

When the mist of legal discovery cleared, it emerged that one of the companies bought was Belize-based Galfis, which claimed to own a €180m tower block in Moscow, the jewel in the IPG crown.

An unemployed Ukrainian railway worker claimed to be the true owner of Galfis.

Galfis did not exist until July 2011, a week after court orders were issued in Dublin banning any interference with IPG. So this meant that the Quinns could not have validly signed over the rights to the K Tower to Galfis in April 2011.

The IBRC suspected Galfis was set up for the benefit of the Quinns, and these fears were heightened when it transpired that Senat was co-ordinating the Quinn family's global legal strategy.

Mecon FZE, whose assets are subject to a worldwide freezing order by the Irish courts, has now instructed Irish lawyers.

Mr Waechter declined to respond to queries from the Irish Independent. Roll on the next chapter in this thriller.

Irish Independent

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