Tuesday 21 November 2017

For Petey's sake, surrender, gardai urge

Niamh Horan, Jim Cusack and ALAN MURRAY

Where is Peter Darragh Quinn? It is the question on the lips of everyone this weekend, as gardai move members of the force into high alert, furiously searching for a lead.

A nation of disgruntled taxpayers is anxiously waiting for news to emerge on a family saga that has gripped the business world like no other.

At the family home, they had battened down the hatches. No one was prepared to answer the door on Friday.

Three cars, one bearing a Dublin registration plate, were parked in the forecourt of the detached two-storey house at Beechmount Park, just a mile from the centre of Enniskillen in Co Fermanagh.

Knocks on the door failed to elicit a response, although an unconfirmed report suggested that Peter's mother had responded to an earlier inquiry with the well-worn response "I don't know anything", before retiring behind the door.

Shortly after, the well- known Passionist priest Fr Brian D'Arcy drove into the cul de sac in his silver car.

But perhaps on spotting the Sunday Independent's photographer, he decided to pay a visit to the Quinns on another day. He turned at the end of the cul de sac and drove straight out again, without engaging in his customary exchanges with the media.

Yesterday afternoon a source said that it was believed that Peter Quinn -- known to his family as 'Petey' -- is keeping a low profile in Northern Ireland.

"What I have been told is that he is already up North. And he has been for the past few days," the source said. "He is out of reach there and can't be got at. He has connections up there and will be keeping his head down, figuring out his next move.

"There is no way he can be extradited back to the South for contempt of court. He's out of the reach of the law."

The source also explained how in recent weeks the Quinn family had discussed how to handle a jail sentence.

"If it came to the worst and a prison sentence was handed down this weekend, Sean Quinn Snr and Jnr were said to have felt that family members would then comply with the letter of the law and serve time together, while appealing the sentence. But that's not how it played out."

This weekend Ciara Quinn told the Sunday Independent: "I have not spoken to Peter and do not know where he is.

"However, when you are ordered by a court to do something which physically cannot be done, it leaves you in a very difficult and frightening place."

Instead, as Sean Quinn Jnr sits in a cell in Ireland's most notorious prison, his cousin and former business partner is on the run and a dramatic manhunt is under way.

One garda source said: "We are half expecting him to hand himself in by Monday. If he has any sense he will do it as soon as possible and serve his sentence side by side with Sean Jnr. He still has to serve it. He might as well get it over with."

But the truth of the matter is, as garda sources confirmed this weekend, that Petey Quinn merely has to stay outside the jurisdiction to avoid arrest and prison. He cannot be subject to any international arrest warrant as these have to be based on criminal law, not civil law.

A High Court contempt order is a civil matter. So no extradition warrant has been issued for his arrest and none will be in regard to the contempt, according to sources.

The only other time Ireland has seen its like is with the case of the Dublin solicitor Michael Lynn, who fled the country in 2007 in the face of a High Court contempt order directing his imprisonment.

Gardai had difficulty in obtaining evidence against Mr Lynn who, the High Court heard, had obtained €80m in mortgages, because clients were reluctant to give evidence.

For the past five years, Mr Lynn has been openly living in a number of countries, including Portugal, Hungary and Bulgaria.

Now the only way the gardai could seek Petey Quinn's extradition would be a lengthy and a multimillion-euro investigation following the Quinn global money trail, which could lead to evidence on which to base criminal charges, if such evidence exists.

Whether he'll be just another Michael Lynn, forgotten by Ireland, save for the odd snatched front-page photograph of him carving out a life abroad, remains to be seen.

Whenever he does surface, the most he'll have to put up with is being confronted by the odd pesky journalist.

If so, his reputation as the "shrewdest" Quinn behind the fallen empire will forever be set in stone -- as his family, his former associates, friends and business partners, are left behind to pick up the pieces.

Sunday Independent

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