FORMER billionaire Sean Quinn could be forced to surrender his earnings for the next two years once his bankruptcy expires this week.
The former tycoon is due to receive an automatic discharge from his debts of €2bn to the former Anglo Irish Bank on Friday, three years to day since he was officially declared bust with just €300 in cash to his name.
But in a setback to his hopes for a fresh start, Mr Quinn is due before the High Court tomorrow when the court-appointed official supervising his bankruptcy is expected to seek an income payment order over all or part of his future earnings in the next two years.
Chris Lehane, the official assignee of bankruptcy, is expected to make the case before Ms Justice Caroline Costello at 11am. The case is listed as number 52 in the legal diary under "Sean Quinn, bankrupt". If the application is approved, Mr Lehane would have a claim on part or all of Mr Quinn earnings until 2017, with the money most likely going into a pot for his creditors, mainly IBRC.
The High Court action follows reports last month that Mr Quinn had landed a job as a consultant or advisor with the company owned by a consortium of his business supporters who bought back parts of his old Quinn empire.
However, one of those involved in the new company said that Mr Quinn's salary had not even been discussed.
John McCartin, a businessman and councillor, who was involved in the bid for the former Quinn Group companies, said: "After all he has done and been through and experiences he has had in life, I think he is beyond offers of a job. I think his role will be advisory and consultative."
He added: "Remuneration hasn't even been discussed yet. We don't expect him to do it for nothing."
He said Mr Quinn would not be joining the board of the company or taking a stake in the new firm but had "offered to help in any way he can: "He has a huge interest in seeing how to move on the business from here."
The former tycoon benefits from the Government's new insolvency laws that cut the period of bankruptcy from 12 years to three. His emergence from bankruptcy means he is now free to leave the country, without first informing the official assignee, to become a company director and to can borrow money.
Even with an income payment order on his earnings, he will still walk free from the bulk of the enormous and disputed debts, which were owed to the bank and are now due to the taxpayer.
Sean Quinn went bankrupt soon after he was ordered by the High Court to repay more than €2bn to the former Anglo Irish Bank.
Once the richest man in Ireland, he ran up the debts while gambling on the bank's share price as the economic crash loomed. Nationalised, under new management and renamed IBRC, the bank pursued Mr Quinn for the massive debts on behalf of the taxpayer. The highest judgments ever made by an Irish Court were made against Mr Quinn for sums of €417m and €1.7bn.
Mr Quinn claimed he was working to repay the money when he was unceremoniously ousted from the Quinn Group in April 2011 by an IBRC-appointed special receiver. Quinn first attempted to go bankrupt in Northern Ireland but that was overturned. He was subsequently declared bankrupt in Ireland. He was jailed for "serious" contempt of court in 2012 after a High Court judge found that he had sanctioned an asset-stripping scheme. The judge said he had only himself to blame. Before he was led to jail, he told reporters that the former IBRC had taken his money, his companies, his reputation and had him thrown in jail.
The Quinn Group, rebranded as Aventas in 2013, began selling off the companies in the group, fuelling a spate of around 70 violent attacks and vandalism against various Quinn properties. The attacks are understood to have stopped completely in recent months.
A group of his former top executives and business supporters set up the Quinn Business Retention Company, which with foreign backing, bought up the packing and construction supplies business from Aventas in December.
Although Mr Quinn had no role in the group, he returned to the Derrylin headquarters to cheers, the day before Christmas Eve, to share a crate of beer and whiskey with employees. Sources said he has dropped in regularly to the old Quinn Group headquarters at Derrylin ever since. "He is back where he belongs, doing what he does best," said one source.
Sean Quinn's wife, Patricia, and five children are engaged in a mammoth battle with the now liquidated IBRC over a disputed €2.3bn in debts. Their case against IBRC alleging the unlawful issuing of loans opens in the High Court in April this year, on the fourth anniversary of the seizure of his business.