Monday 11 December 2017

Sean Quinn’s ‘clueless’ wife has to repay €3m loan

Daughters, Collette (left) and Aoife Quinn, leaving the High Court yesterday after the hearing

Laura Noonan and reporters

THE wife of bankrupt Sean Quinn, who was once Ireland’s richest man, has been ordered to repay a €3m loan from Anglo Irish Bank that she signed her name to, but claims she knew nothing about.

Mr Justice Peter Kelly made the order at the Commercial Court today.

Patricia Quinn was also ordered to pay the costs of the case taken by Irish Bank Resolution Corporation (IRBC), formerly Anglo.

She had claimed that that she only "very recently" became aware she was a customer of Anglo Irish Bank -- even though her name appears on loan documents for millions of euro of borrowings from the nationalised bank.

Summing up, Justice Peter Kelly said Mrs Quinn had failed to make an arguable defense to the claim by the bank for the repayment of the loan.

He added that even a glance at the documents she signed would have shown all but an illiterate person that it was some form of borrowing from the bank.

In court papers filed in the family’s separate legal action against the bank it was also revealed that her daughter Brenda became the owner of the Slieve Russell Hotel in Cavan when she was aged just three.

The Quinn family claim that the hotel has been owned by Brenda since it was built in 1990 but was held in trust for her by her mother until she turned 18.

They admitted that it was difficult to say when Brenda became aware of her ownership of the hotel, according to a report in today’s Irish Times.

Mrs Quinn and her five children are challenging the bank’s claims that they owe €2.3bn claiming that the loans are “tainted with illegality”.

Mrs Quinn’s claims were read out in the Commercial Court, as her lawyers attempted to fight off Anglo Irish Bank's attempts to force her to repay a €3m loan she signed with her husband.

Her lack of knowledge of her dealings, an ignorance she described as "embarrassing", is all the more striking since her husband famously lost more than €3bn on a disastrous punt on Anglo's shares.

In court yesterday, Mrs Quinn claimed she was not liable for the loan because she never realised she had signed up for it, never received the benefit of it and never received any legal advice before signing the loan documents.

But the senior lawyer acting for Anglo, Paul Gallagher, said Mrs Quinn was making "incredible" claims that she did not have to repay the loan because she was a homemaker unduly influenced by her husband.

Mrs Quinn's barrister, Bill Shipsey, said that while it may sound astonishing, his client was a housewife with no business sophistication and a claim of undue influence could be advanced in her case.

Mr Justice Peter Kelly quoted Mr Bumble from Charles Dickens's novel 'Oliver Twist' and said if that was the law, then "the law is an ass".

He said Mrs Quinn was advancing the "startling proposition" she was "a cat's paw" for her husband with no clue about documents she was signing and also "clueless" about being a director of many companies and a company secretary.

Anglo, now known as Irish Bank Resolution Corporation (IBRC), has strongly rejected Mrs Quinn's claims that she is not responsible for the loan.

It has also argued that while she disputed the bank's description of her as a "business lady", she had been a director of 63 Quinn group companies in the Republic, 28 Quinn companies in the UK and secretary of about 10 companies.

In an affidavit, Mrs Quinn said she was not a business lady, had been a homemaker for the past 36 years and had been looking after her husband since she married at the age of 21.

However, Mr Gallagher referred to an affidavit in which Michael O'Sullivan, of Anglo, said Mrs Quinn displayed business knowledge during a conversation with him.

Mrs Quinn has also claimed she only realised "very recently" she was a customer of Anglo.

She claims that over many years she signed documents when asked to do so by her husband or his colleagues in the Quinn group, but says she was never informed about the nature or impact of the documents.

"This is embarrassing to admit but it is the truth," she said in an affidavit.

IBRC was previously granted summary judgment against Mr Quinn over the €3m loan. The bank claimed it was told the loan was to go towards decorating the Quinns' home at Ballyconnell, but the court heard Mr Quinn had directed the money be paid into an account of Quinn Manufacturing Ltd.

Mrs Quinn argues she has a defence on several grounds to the bank's claim and is entitled to a full hearing.

In affidavits, she said she never worked with the Quinn group of companies and was never involved in any business or financial dealings "beyond deciding upon the weekly groceries and providing for the household expenses".

She only became aware of the loan and demand for repayment after this case was taken, she said. It was now clear to her, contrary to what was stated on the loan facility letter, that the funds were used for commercial purposes, she added.

Mr Gallagher argued nothing said by Mrs Quinn amounted to a defence to summary judgment.

A document signed in five places by Mrs Quinn on December 14, 2006, was clearly for a loan and she had signed under the words, "Borrower's Acceptance". She accepted those were her signatures.

Mrs Quinn also did not deny the extent of her company directorships. If she signed documents without reading or understanding them, that was negligence on her part for which the bank was not liable.

If she was found to be not liable because she did not read the documents, that would have huge implications for contracts, he said.

Mr Shipsey argued the bank had failed to address Mrs Quinn's claim she did not understand she was going to personally borrow €3m.

Mr Justice Kelly noted that during another case about 25 years ago concerning the conduct of the affairs of a pub company, the late Ms Justice Mella Carroll observed the days were gone when wives could be treated akin to infants or persons of unsound mind.

Irish Independent

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