| 7.2°C Dublin

Bankrupt Sean Quinn Snr to spend Christmas in jail



BANKRUPT businessman Sean Quinn is set to spend Christmas in prison after a High Court judge ruled his contempt of court orders was so serious she must jail him.

Ms Justice Elizabeth Dunne said she could not ignore the extent and degree of contempt by Mr Quinn and, taking all various matters into account, including mitigating factors such as his health problems, age, previous good character, charitable donations and that there had been "a degree" of co-operation by him, she would impose a nine week jail term.

In a separate case today involving other members of the Quinn family, another judge was also told IBRC has involved a specialist firm in Russia and the Ukraine in a bid to recover Quinn family assets in those countries.

In her ruling on the case against Mr Quinn senior, Ms Justice Dunne said while he (Quinn) had spoken about how the court proceedings had negatively consumed his life and that of his family, "he has only himself to blame."

Ms Justice Dunne delivered her decision just after 11am but the issue of whether a stay on that term pending appeal would apply was adjourned until at the request of Mr Quinn's lawyers who later told the court he did not want to appeal and would begin serving his sentence.

He was doing so in recognition of the recent Supreme Court decision dismissing his son Sean junior's appeal against being jailed, his lawyer Eugen Grant QC said. There were issues common to the appeals, he said.

Mr Grant also said Mr Quinn is a 66-year-old grandfather with a number of grandchildren and was anxious to attend a grandchild's christening on December 22 next. As he was not eligible for remission due to this being a sentence for contempt, counsel asked that the court agree to release him for that event.

Mr Murphy said compassionate release was a matter for the prison authorities to decide and the judge agreed.

Having reviewed matters since her decision last June finding Mr Quinn in contempt of court orders of June and July 2011 restraining asset stripping from the family's international property group (IPG) so as to put them beyond the bank's reach, Ms Justice Dunne said today she regarded Mr Quinn's contempt as so serious she could only conclude it mandated a term of imprisonment.

This case was about protecting assets which could be ultimately available to satisfy any judgment obtained by the bank against the Quinns, she said. IBRC, formerly Anglo Irish Bank, claimed it was owed €2.8bn by the Quinns and, while there was a serious dispute about that which she did not have to decide now, it was accepted €455m was owed by the Quinns to the bank.

In the separate case involving other members of the Quinn family, IBRC told the court a joint venture arrangement (JVA) between the bank and assets recovery specialist in Russia and Ukraine is urgent and necessary if there is to be any hope of recovering any assets from Quinn IPG.

A payment of €31m will initially be made to the firm, called A1, with further substantial payments of tens of millions if they succeed in recovering assets, the court heard. The JVA is intended to be finalised within days as the situation was urgent if any assets are to be recovered, Paul Gallagher SC, for IBRC said.

The bank was entering into the JVA because it found itself in an "impossible position" in seeking to recover assets, he said.

Each time the bank secured some successes in countries such as Russia and Ukraine, the family has moved to reverse those, counsel said.

Niall McPartland, a son in law of Sean Quinn, said the family had no control over the assets and the bank continues to reject their efforts to assist in recovering them.

The proposed JVA would mean an automatic loss of €31m-51m and possibly more via payments to A1 in circumstances where the Quinn family disputed the bank has any legitimate security over the IPG assets, he said.

"Two wrongs don't make a right. We shouldn't have moved the assets when there was a dispute over the debt but the bank is now doing the same thing, he said.

Mr Justice Peter Kelly noted IBRC had secured the approval of the Minister for Finance to enter into the arrangement with A1.

The court had no role to play in this commercial arrangement but the bank was quite properly updating the court about it, the judge added.