Friday 19 January 2018

IBRC overcomes 'fraud' to get control of Quinn properties

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Shane Phelan

Shane Phelan

A special liquidator has claimed he had to overcome "dishonest and fraudulent activity" to secure control over major assets in the €500m property portfolio of the family of former billionaire Sean Quinn.

Kieran Wallace told the Commercial Court that "contrived bankruptcies" had been one of the tactics used in an attempt to put the three properties, in Russia and the Ukraine, beyond the reach of Quinn family creditors.

He also admitted that it was proving "extremely challenging" to secure control over eight other Quinn properties in Russia.

Mr Wallace, the joint special liquidator of the Irish Bank Resolution Corporation (IBRC), said documents had been falsified and backdated, while bogus and inflated debts had also been created.

The comments were made in an affidavit informing the Commercial Court that control of three assets had been secured following an agreement with the A1 trading and investment company.

IBRC began using the services of the Russian firm, controlled by oligarch Mikhail Fridman, in 2013 in a bid to recover the Quinn assets after previous efforts proved fruitless.

The joint venture has now secured control of the Q Park logistics facility in Kazan, the Kutuzoff Tower in Moscow and the Univermag Shopping Centre in Kiev, together currently valued at around $120m (€109m).

However, an agreement has been reached with A1 to defer the sale of the properties until the property market in both countries rebounds.

The disclosure comes at a crucial stage in behind the scenes talks between the Quinns and IBRC to settle long-running litigation.

Retired Supreme Court Judge Joseph Finnegan has agreed to act as a mediator in the case, where the family deny liability for loans of €2.3bn made by IBRC's predecessor Anglo.

The Quinns claim the loans were issued in an illegal attempt to prop up the share price of Anglo, while the IBRC has counter-claimed that members of the Quinn family were involved in a scheme to place international properties beyond its reach.

The Quinns have denied the allegation.

Under the new agreement, A1 will receive $34m (€31m) and will have the opportunity to benefit from 20pc of the value of any further assets recovered in the next six months.

In a separate statement, Mr Wallace said A1 had done an excellent job to secure the three properties after efforts by the bank on its own had failed.

"The joint-venture approach has worked well," he said.

Mr Wallace said the new agreement was in the best interests of the State as it would mean the properties would not be sold now "at seriously depressed prices".

Eoin O'Leary, the Irish Ambassador to Russia, said the embassy in Moscow had worked closely with IBRC and A1 "to assist in achieving the best result for the Irish taxpayer".

IBRC is continuing to make efforts to get control of eight other properties in Russia and an office block in Hyderabad, India.

Mr Wallace said the eight Russian properties had not been recovered despite "significant resources and efforts being expended".

This included lawsuits against various companies owning the assets or shareholdings in them.

He said the litigation "remains difficult and is ongoing".

Mr Wallace alleged the Quinns, or agents for them, sought to undermine IBRC's security over the assets by transferring shareholdings to Russian companies and individuals for "nominal consideration".

Then shareholdings were subsequently transferred to companies bought on behalf of the Quinn family in Belize and Panama, he claimed.

The properties still being pursued include a retail centre in Ufa, in the Russian republic of Bashkortostan, a plot of land in Rostov, a business centre and logistics site in Moscow, and a construction materials hypermarket in Yekaterinburg.

Irish Independent

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