Sunday 18 March 2018

SEAN quiNN JAILED A TYCOON'S AMAZING REVERSAL OF FORTUNE Tears: Sean Quinn is overcome during a rally in support of him and his family, while below, Sean Quinn Jnr leaves Mountjoy Prison with his wife Karen Woods after visiting his father

It was, by any standard, a dramatic fall from grace. On October 2, Sean Quinn, once Ireland's richest man and 164th richest in the world with a fortune estimated in 2008 at €4.7bn, was taken down from the dock of the High Court to begin a nine-week jail sentence.

Ms Justice Elizabeth Dunne was not moved by the arguments of Quinn's lawyer, Eugene Grant, who enumerated the former tycoon's good deeds, recited his health complaints and implored us to see him as a man "bereft of all financial or economic dignity".

If no one else was moved by this eulogy, Quinn himself was. He took a handkerchief from his pocket and dabbed his eyes as his counsel recounted the by now familiar simple-farmer's-son-to-tycoon narrative.

The judge found him guilty of three counts of contempt of court because he had continued to move assets abroad, had signed backdated and bogus documents to facilitate asset-stripping in defiance of orders from two courts for him to desist.

Quinn has claimed that he is entirely entitled to protect what he can from Anglo because he disputes the amount of money the bank claims he owes.

The law, however, disagrees. The jailing of Sean Quinn was part of a process that had already seen his son, Sean Jnr, serve three months in Mountjoy on the same charges.

Quinn's nephew, Peter Quinn, was also sentenced to three months, but fled over the Border, where the bench warrant for his arrest cannot be enforced.

The story of how it came to this is long, complex and dramatic. It includes secret meetings, exotic locations, eastern European henchmen and hidden surveillance. It's no wonder there's talk of a movie version, with Kevin Spacey in the lead role.

Sean Quinn took a huge bet on the share price of Anglo-Irish Bank – and lost. He borrowed more – from Anglo – to shore up his position, and when that didn't work he took money out of his insurance company.

When the music stopped playing, Quinn owed Anglo €2.8bn (he disputes €2.34bn of this). The bank lured Quinn to a meeting in Dublin and clandestinely sent receivers in to his businesses.

At this point Quinn, his son and nephew embarked on a complex scheme to hide, transfer and camouflage as much of their property and income as possible.

Family members were paid enormous salaries and property assets were transferred via Russia to Belize.

During the court hearings, some bizarre Quinn practices came to light. For instance, the Quinn group paid €100,000 for a wedding cake at Ciara Quinn's wedding in 2007, while Sean Jnr's wife, Karen, was paid a salary of €320,927 by a Russian company under Quinn's control.

Anglo told the court it was "unaware of any work done" by Karen Woods to justify the payments. Peter Quinn was paid €474,974, but claims this represents "fair compensation" for work done in Russia.

The court battles, the rallies of support and the outraged commentary will all continue for some time yet. It remains to be seen whether Sean Quinn will succeed in getting the "wee bit of dignity" he craves so much.

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