Options available to protect his fortune

Donal O'Donovan

HIS years as Ireland's richest man mean Sean Quinn saw plenty of good times before yesterday's dramatic seizure of his biggest assets.

And now there are legitimate ways for Mr Quinn to put previously earned cash aside.

The simplest and most watertight is to pour funds into family trusts. These can be here or abroad and as long as the transfer happened before the debt repayment was sought then the money can never be recovered.

The practice is legitimate and as long as the people who stand to benefit from the trust are free from the debt, the money cannot be touched. There's no limit to how big trusts set up in Ireland or elsewhere in the name of Sean Quinn's grandchildren can be, for example.

As long as Mr Quinn himself never benefits from the funds invested in such a trust his family could continue to reap the benefits of his previous success.

Assets held in Sean Quinn's own name are much harder to keep a hold of, but there are ways. The most basic is to simply not disclose their existence.

Anglo Irish Bank spent months trawling through Mr Quinn's businesses before taking the decision to seize the best assets last night. But they have really only gone for the low-hanging fruit, taking control of the most obvious and least-portable assets. It could be years before the bank can get a full picture of a man who just a few short years ago was valued at billions of euro.

Last night a Dublin-based liquidator said identifying and getting control of assets could be a massive job, and might prove costly for a bank with money troubles of its own.