Tuesday 16 January 2018

Quinn spun web to keep €500m from Anglo, files claim

Dearbhail McDonald

Dearbhail McDonald

FORMER billionaire Sean Quinn and members of his family used a web of mysterious offshore companies in an attempt to put up to €500m worth of property beyond the reach of Anglo Irish Bank, key court documents claim.

Anglo, now known as the Irish Bank Resolution Corporation (IBRC), has been trying to take control of companies and properties once owned by the Quinn family across the globe to recoup as much as possible of the ¿2.8bn owed to it by Mr Quinn.

But the IBRC says it has been frustrated at every turn by the Quinns or people connected to them.

The bank claims the Quinns "moved" debts owed on a number of the family's valuable foreign properties to offshore companies -- in the process frustrating IBRC's efforts to gain control of those properties.

In some cases, ownership of the offshore firms used in the complicated financial manoeuvres is shrouded in mystery.

Today, the Irish Independent pieces together material filed in courts around the world on which the bank is basing its claims that key assets are being stripped of their value.

In the documents, the IBRC lays out the complex web of financial transactions spanning several countries.

It claims these transactions were used to break court orders blocking the Quinns from interfering in any way with properties.

Sean Quinn Snr, his son Sean Quinn Jnr and his nephew Peter Quinn -- former head of the family's worldwide real estate empire, known as the Quinn

An international property portfolio worth €500m is the real battleground for the High Court showdown between the Quinn family and Anglo Irish Bank.

It represents the bank's best chance of recovering some of the almost €3bn loaned to Quinn companies. And it represents the best chance for Mr Quinn's wife and children to secure part of the empire built by Sean Quinn Snr over nearly four decades.

The manner in which Sean Quinn Snr managed his conglomerate is mind-boggling. For inheritance, tax and legal reasons, he didn't actually own anything and Anglo did not actually lend directly to the Quinn Group.

The Quinn Group, a complex web of almost 100 companies scattered across Ireland, Europe and further afield, was owned by his five children.

The entry point for Anglo's lending was typically through Quinn companies higher up in the web who cascaded the debt to intermediate companies -- with promises that Anglo could take control over any assets if the group defaulted on its loans.

But weeks before Anglo took control of the group, mysterious offshore companies laid claim to key properties.

Anglo's successor, the Irish Bank Resolution Corporation (IBRC), has secured properties in Ireland, the UK, the Czech Republic and Turkey.

But it is struggling to retain control of properties in Russia, Ukraine and India. The IBRC claims that debts of foreign companies that owned key were moved by Quinn companies to offshore companies in Belize and the British Virgin Islands.

The stakes are high for all concerned, including the Irish Government. The collapse of Anglo -- and the role, if any, of politicians and regulators -- could finally be laid bare in the court action.

Sean Quinn Snr, his son Sean Quinn Jnr and his nephew Peter Quinn face prison if they are found to be in breach of court orders not to interfere with the property portfolio.

The trio are expected to argue in a forthcoming contempt hearing that any transactions in which they were involved pre-dated the temporary injunction issued last June.

It is fair to say that events before and after the Anglo/Quinn collapse are disturbing.

If the Quinns are right and win their case in Dublin, the IBRC had no right to appoint a share receiver and take control over the Quinn Group, including its international property portfolio.

But if the IBRC is right to call in the massive loans of the Quinn Group, any moves to dissipate assets -- whether malignant or benign -- represent a serious loss to the taxpayer and future generations who are paying the bill for the Anglo/Quinn scandal.

Irish Independent

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