| 19.4°C Dublin

From richest man to common prisoner

Close

BANKRUPT businessman Sean Quinn says he is ready for jail as he began his nine-week sentence for "outrageous" contempt of court.

In an exclusive interview with the Irish Independent before being jailed, the former billionaire said: "Whatever happens, I want to move on. I am ready for this day."

Mr Quinn will spend his 67th birthday and Christmas Day as prisoner 82809 in Mountjoy unless he can get release on compassionate grounds.

Proceedings

It's also emerged that the former Anglo Irish Bank has spent €80m in the proceedings against the Quinns.

At the same time, the bank is no closer to recovering the family's massive overseas property empire, once valued at €500m.

The former tycoon was jailed for contempt after breaching court orders not to interfere with the Quinn family's international property portfolio.

Mr Quinn is not due for release until January 4, and unlike his fellow prisoners he will not entitled to early release for good behaviour as there is no remission for those convicted of contempt.

As well as Christmas, he could also miss his granddaughter's christening on December 22.

The Irish Bank Resolution Corporation, formerly Anglo, has revealed it will face further potential losses of up to €50m as it adopts a new strategy to recover the Quinns' foreign properties.

Finance Minister Michael Noonan has given his approval to a new joint venture between the state-owned lender and a Russian asset recovery firm.

The move will require an initial €31m cash boost that could rise to more than €50m as the bank tries to recover $315m (€245m) worth of assets.

The jailing of Mr Quinn followed a dramatic and highly emotional day at the Four Courts where he and his supporters shed tears as he was led into custody.

High Court judge Ms Justice Elizabeth Dunne, who previously sentenced Sean Quinn Jnr to three months in jail for contempt, said she could not ignore the extent and degree of contempt by Mr Quinn.

Taking all matters into account, including mitigating factors such as his health problems, age, previous good character, charitable donations and "a degree" of co-operation by him, she imposed a nine-week jail term.

Ms Justice Dunne said that although Mr Quinn had spoken recently in court papers about how the proceedings had negatively consumed his life and that of his family, he has only himself to blame.

"It is important to ensure that orders of the court are complied with and that the integrity of the court system is not set at naught by an egregious breach of a court order," said Ms Justice Dunne.

Before he was taken into custody, a tearful Mr Quinn said that while he had made some mistakes in recent years, the case against him and his family was "a charade".

As he left court Sean Quinn Jnr, who was recently released from Mountjoy, insisted his father had done nothing wrong.

"It's a very sad day to see dad jailed at the behest of Anglo Irish Bank, the very bank who ruined this country," said Mr Quinn Jnr.

"He is a father, grandfather and husband and he will be dearly missed during this time," he added.

The IBRC and the wider Quinn family did not comment on the dramatic developments in court.

But Taoiseach Enda Kenny waded into the high-profile legal drama when he warned that people have to co-operate fully with the courts.

Mr Kenny said the decision of the High Court spoke for itself.

"Let me repeat again that it's absolutely necessary where court inquiries are taking place about banking issues that people would always and should always co-operate fully in that regard," he said after the conclusion of the North-South ministerial council in Armagh.

When asked if he was personally sympathetic with Mr Quinn for getting a jail sentence, Mr Kenny brought up the 2pc insurance levy imposed on all home, motor and commercial insurance policies to pay for the Quinn Insurance bailout.

"There's no doubt the Quinn family created obviously a great deal of jobs over the years. But you have to bear in mind as well that for instance, the consequences of the insurance levy will hit every driver for the next two decades," he said.

Blame

Speaking at the same event, the North's Deputy First Minister, Sinn Fein's Martin McGuinness, opted to praise Mr Quinn's job creation record and to blame the banks for his predicament -- the standard line for Quinn supporters.

"I don't think anybody that has commented on the career of Sean Quinn has disputed in any way the remarkable contribution that he made towards the employment prospects of people in the border counties, and many people have rightly applauded him for giving those people employment.

"I can't comment on a court case as a minister, I think it would be totally inappropriate other than to say that I think that the banks have an awful lot to answer for," he said.

Irish Independent