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Anglo's covert op to oust Quinn


SHARES: Sean Quinn

SHARES: Sean Quinn

SHARES: Sean Quinn

ANGLO Irish Bank's bid to oust the business tycoon Sean Quinn from his manufacturing empire last April was the culmination of an elaborate, covert operation by the bank codenamed 'Day One'.

A document seen by the Sunday Independent reveals the efforts by the nationalised bank to ensure secrecy as it plotted to appoint a receiver to the shares of the Quinn Group last April to recover the €2.8bn it is owed by the tycoon -- once Ireland's richest man -- and his family.

The operation involved summoning the tycoon to a meeting with Anglo in Dublin headquarters on the same morning that the bank prepared to appoint a receiver, effectively ousting Mr Quinn and his family from control.

"SQ (Sean Quinn) will not be able to act sufficiently quickly to obtain injunctions to prevent the appointment of the SR (share receiver) and/or the changes to the board being made," said the document, while the Quinn Group would be left "reacting" to the events.

Meanwhile, the security firm Risk Management International (RMI) organised the "logistics", bussing key executives poised to take over from the Quinn team to a secret 'operations centre' near the group's headquarters until the receiver was in place.

The operation -- code-named 'Day One' -- was outlined with military precision in a manual called 'Day One Sequencing Memo'. Even the manual had the makings of a thriller on its front page: "All activities will take place under the guise of a management training course with a company called Realise," it said.

The cloak-and-dagger operation culminated in the appointment of KPMG as share receiver to the Quinn Group on April 14. The move has fuelled an acrimonious legal battle between Anglo and Mr Quinn.

Businessman Mr Quinn developed his massive empire from a gravel pit in Fermanagh. But he gambled his fortune on a disastrous share-buying spree in Anglo, largely funded by the bank itself under former chairman Sean FitzPatrick.

Mr Quinn and his family personally owe Anglo €2.8bn. The bank is now chasing the Quinn family's assets abroad.

The Quinns, however, have launched their own legal challenge to the receivership and their removal from the family business. The new management team at the Group, meanwhile, have been subjected to a campaign of intimidation and vandalism, culminating in an arson attack outside the home of its new chief executive Paul O'Brien. Mr Quinn has dismissed what he called "innuendo" that the intimidation was carried out in his name.

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On the eve of the planned heave against the Quinn Group, Anglo was to 'arrange' the meeting in Dublin with Mr Quinn, and his executives, Kevin Lunny and Dara O'Reilly, for 9.30am at the bank's headquarters on 'Day One'.

At the same time, secure pay-as-you-go mobile phones were to be purchased for the bosses-in-waiting, Paul O'Brien and Pat O'Neill, both non-executive directors on the Quinn Group's board. Mr O'Neill was poised to replace Mr Quinn as chairman.

The operation kicked off at dawn. Key personnel -- including Mr O'Brien and Mr O'Neill -- were instructed to show up on 'Day One' at a location near Dublin Airport at 5.45am. They were to be bussed to a secret location where they would await the appointment of a receiver before swooping on the Quinn Group's two head offices in Cavan and Derrylin, Co Fermanagh.

"People will be transported up to an operations centre that RMI will have established in the Cavan area," the document said.

They were to use the "cover story" of a "management-training conference with a company called Realise" and were told not to talk about the "share enforcement" with anyone not wearing an identification badge.

At 9.30am back in Dublin, an oblivious Mr Quinn and his executives gathered at Anglo's headquarters with Mike Aynsley, Anglo's chief executive, Alan Dukes, its chairman, and a key executive Richard Woodhouse.

The Sunday Independent understands from other sources that Mr Dukes had phoned Mr Quinn the night before to arrange the meeting. Twenty minutes into the meeting, at 9.50am, he told Mr Quinn that a receiver was being appointed to the group.

By then, Mr O'Neill and Mr O'Brien, who were about to replace Mr Quinn, were on their way to Derrylin with security guards. By lunchtime, press releases heralding the end of Mr Quinn's reign had gone out and six of his key executives had been dismissed; Sean Quinn's nephew, Peter; Liam McCaffrey; Sinead Geoghegan, Dara O'Reilly and Kevin Lunney.

Security firm RMI was to "sweep" the two head offices in Cavan and Derrylin for "unauthorised devices", according to the document; a locksmith was "on call" throughout the day; and an infrastructure team in vans with equipment to hand was to secure the Quinn Group computer system and passwords.

There was also advice in the document on what to do if Mr Quinn was to show up at his old headquarters. "Should Mr Quinn lead a gathering, do not attempt to intervene to remove risk of escalation."

A question and answer sheet was included for the new Quinn Group bosses posing questions that might be raised by the media. "The bank can sit there and castigate Sean Quinn but surely, the very bank that lent him the money, the very bank he invested so heavily in -- is hugely responsible for what happened?"

The supplied answer was: "The exceptionally serious problem which faces the Quinn Group has been caused by the recklessness of the owners. Sean Quinn's actions have ultimately destabilised the business and as a result put at direct risk the livelihoods of more than 2,700 people."

The document seen by the Sunday Independent was a draft. This weekend, Anglo said in a statement: "The process to appoint the share receiver was undertaken professionally and efficiently with the co-operation of the chairman and non-executive directors of the board of the Quinn Group. It was planned and managed in a manner to ensure the protection of taxpayers' interests and of employment within the Quinn Group."

A spokesman for Mr Quinn declined to comment.

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