Sean Quinn could face jail after contempt ruling in High Court
BILLIONAIRE-turned-bankrupt Sean Quinn, his son Sean and nephew Peter Darragh have all been found in contempt of court for putting assets beyond the reach of the former Anglo-Irish Bank.
Potential punishment for contempt of court in Ireland ranges from fines and seizure of property to a jail sentence.
The former business tycoon, once Ireland's richest man, and his two relatives were found to have defied an order at the High Court in Dublin over the family's international property portfolio.
The lawsuit, brought by the State-owned bank which was rebranded last year to become the Irish Bank Resolution Corporation, claimed they shifted assets from as far afield as Ukraine and Russia into new ownership as it pursued €2.8bn debts.
The contempt ruling was delivered by Mrs Justice Elizabeth Dunne at the Four Courts in Dublin.
Delivering her judgement, Mrs Dunne said given the seriousness of the contempt case, it would be difficult to persuade her against enforcing action with "a punitive element as well as coercive".
Quinn senior hurried from the court and as he got into a car declared: "I am not dishonest."
His son and Peter Darragh were also present for the ruling.
It is the latest court battle the Fermanagh-born businessman has lost after he secured bankruptcy in Northern Ireland only for it to be overturned and a Dublin court then to declare him bankrupt.
The contempt lawsuit is one of a series of cases across several jurisdictions as the zombie bank tries to recover a €500m international property portfolio to cover unprecedented debts run up by Mr Quinn in secret and ill-fated share deals in Anglo.
In a hard-hitting judgment criticising the Quinns, Mrs Justice Dunne ruled that Sean Quinn's evidence was not credible.
She said it was "impossible to accept the evidence of Sean Quinn Senior that he had no hand, act or part in Quinn business after April 2011".
A receiver had been appointed by that time to the Quinn Group after Sean Quinn ran up the huge debts on a stock market gamble that the Anglo share price would keep rising.
The judge went on to say that his son Sean was not telling the truth and that the evidence of nephew Peter Darragh Quinn was "most untruthful".
The Quinns are expected back in the High Court on Friday, when arguments will be put forward for further action to be taken against them over the contempt
Mrs Justice Dunne said the bank had faced considerable obstacles, not to say obstruction, and had been opposed at every step as it chased the Quinn assets.
Mr Quinn Senior was described as evasive and unco-operative and accused of making lengthy criticisms of Anglo rather than answering questions in court.
"I am satisfied that he was au fait with the arrangements taking place to implement the plan," the judge ruled.
Mr Quinn Junior was found to have offered some evidence that was "simply unbelievable", including when pressed on why he was in Kiev on August 30 2011.
"As a general overview I have to say that I was not impressed with the manner in which they gave evidence," she said.
"Peter (Darragh) Quinn was evasive, less than forthright, obstructive, unco-operative and, at times, untruthful.
"He conveyed the impression of someone reluctant to be in court, to say as little as possible and of someone who simply did not tell the whole truth."
He would have said and done anything to keep assets away from the former Anglo, the judge ruled.
The bank's pursuit of assets held by the Quinns has led to a paper trail and court cases in Ireland, Northern Ireland, Russia, the Ukraine, Cyprus, Sweden and Belize.
The contempt case was told that, in the Cypriot court battle, misleading affidavits were sworn by the Quinn family.
The judge said that, during his evidence, Mr Quinn Senior spoke of the Quinn Group and its importance as an employer of 7,000 people.
"One can appreciate the ability that led to the creation of such a business empire," she added.
"Sean Quinn Senior also spoke of the honourable, respectable way in which the businesses comprised in the Quinn Group were run.
"I wish I could say the same about the manner in which the respondents have dealt with the adverse circumstances in which they now find themselves having regard to the collapse of the Quinn business empire."
The dispute between Anglo and the Quinns centres on the bank's attempt to recover €2.8bn.
"Instead of trying to repay the admitted debt due, the Quinn family, and in particular the respondents, have taken every step possible to make it as difficult as can be to recover any amount due," the judge continued.
She described efforts to hide assets as complex, complicated and costly and said they were done in a blatant, dishonest and deceitful manner.
"They have consciously misled courts here and elsewhere," the judge said.
"They have sought to deprive Anglo of the assets which would go some way to discharging an admitted indebtedness.
"The behaviour of the respondents outlined in evidence before me is as far as removed from the concept of honour and respectability as it is possible to be."
In a statement, the Irish Bank Resolution Corporation said it had been frustratingly obstructed in trying to recover the property portfolio.
Mike Aynsley, the bank's chief executive, said: "Bringing this contempt motion was a valid and necessary step for IBRC to take.
"The proven planned, covert and illicit actions taken by the Quinns and connected parties have resulted in millions of euros being lost or put at risk.
"IBRC will continue to seek to remedy this and recover as much of the remaining assets as possible on behalf of the Irish taxpayer."