Saturday 18 January 2020

Quinn asks for compassionate release as jail term starts

Tim Healy

BANKRUPT businessman Sean Quinn is beginning a nine week period of imprisonment this afternoon.

Mr Quinn has decided to begin the term imposed on him now despite the fact he is to appeal to the Supreme Court against findings he acted in outrageous contempt of court orders, his lawyer said.

Having been given time to consider the matter, Eugene Grant QC, for Mr Quinn, said his client wanted to begin his jail term now as, while he was maintaining his appeal, he was also conscious of the Supreme Court's recent decison dismissing his son's finding against a three month sentence for contempt.

Counsel said Mr Quinn was a 66-year-old grandfather and was anxious to attend a grandchild's christening on December 22 next but was not eligible for remission as this was a sentence for contempt.

He asked that the court agree to release him for that event.

Ms Justice Elizabeth Dunne said an application for compassionate release would have to be made to the prison authorities.

Ms Justice Dunne earlier said Mr Quinn's contempt was so serious that she could come to no other conclusion that it mandated a term of imprisonment.

She could not ignore the extent and degree of contempt by Mr Quinn and, taking all various matters into account, including his health problems, she would impose a nine week term.

While Mr Quinn had spoken about how the court proceedings had negatively consumed his life and that of his family, she said: "In my view, he has only himself to blame."

It was not disputed significant assets had been put beyond the reach of IBRC, the former Anglo Irish Bank, and the position of the Quinn defendants appeared to be they were so successful in that regard, they themselves could not retrieve the assets, the judge said. However, she did not have to decide that issue now.

The situation was IBRC claimed it was owed €2.8bn by the Quinns and, while there was dispute about that, it was accepted €455m was owed.

The judge had said she was imposing a nine week term but the issue of whether there would be a serious dispute about that, it was accepted the Quinns owed €455m to the bank, she said. Putting assets beyond the reach of the bank in defiance of the court's orders was, as she had previously found, "nothing short of outrageous".

It was important to ensure court orders were complied with and the integrity of the court system was not set at naught by "an egregious breach of court orders".

a stay on that term pending an appeal against the findings of contempt was adjourned earlier today after Mr Quinn's lawyer said he wanted time to consider whether to go to jail immediately or proceed with the appeal.

Shane Murphy SC, for IBRC, had said it would agree to a stay provided Mr Quinn's lawyers progressed any appeal urgently.

In her decision today, the judge referred to her previous findings of contempt against Mr Quinn and her rejection of his evidence in the contempt hearing as not credible, evasive and unco-operative. She had also found he had given his imprimatur to the asset-stripping scheme.

She stressed the only issue she was dealing with today was the punitive aspect of the case as coercive matters have been adjourned. She was dealing with punitive issues arising from past non-compliance with court orders.

The judge delivered her ruling in a courtroom packed with lawyers, journalists and supporters of Mr Quinn.

Mr Quinn's son Sean and sons in law Niall McPartland and Stephen Kelly were also in court.

IBRC was represented in court today by its CEO Mike Aynsley and senior executive Richard Woodhouse.

Mr Quinn was jailed arising from the judge's findings last June that acted in contempt of court orders made in June and July 2011 restraining stripping of assets valued up to US$430 million from companies in the IPG.

The judge found contempt via his involvement in the assignment of multi-million loans and the backdating of documents with a view to showing the assignments occurred prior to the court orders. She also found contempt via his involvement in a €500,000 payment to Larissa Puga, general diredctor of Quin Properties Ukraine onthe eve of the bank's takeover of that company.

Mr Quinn had denied involvement in any of those matters and had also said he had co-operated fully with the bank in its efforts to recover assets. The bank disputed those claims.

Mr Grant had appealed to the judge not to jail Mr Quinn. Counsel said Mr Quinn had several health issues and had fallen from being Ireland's richest man employing up to 8,000 people to a position where he was "broken", "bereft" and "bankrupt".

The bank had argued Mr Quinn had failed to purge his contempt and also said it believed various Quinn family members are continuing to direct steps to prevent it recovering assets for the Irish taxpayer.

The bank has been "continuously and unlawfully" frustrated by the Quinns or their agents, is involved in litigation in ten countries and has reached the stage where it considers it cannot recover assets acting alone and must engage A1, an asset recovery specialist company in Russia to help, it said.

Sean Quinn, in an affidavit, denied he has any control over the IPG assets but said he and his family are willing to do all they can to assist the bank in recovering assets and to purge the contempt found against him and his son. He took his obligations under the court orders with the "greatest seriousness" and was "absolutely committed" to purging his contempt and "to moving on with my life".

This matter had devastated his family and culminated in the jailing of his son and if he could change the past as to what had transpired, he would but that was "simply not within my power", he said.

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