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Tony Quinn: his young lover Eve, his massive fortune and the prayers for cash

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Lovebirds: Tony Quinn and his
partner Eve in Monte Carlo

Lovebirds: Tony Quinn and his partner Eve in Monte Carlo

Lovebirds: Tony Quinn and his partner Eve in Monte Carlo

Tony Quinn's devout Irish followers, some of whom believe he is the reincarnation of Jesus Christ, are following with intense interest a court case in the Caribbean.

He was given a shareholding in an exploration company there after some directors believed his mind-bending techniques helped them hit oil. Now a former director accuses them and him of mismanaging the company.

It is the latest episode in the rollercoaster career of the former butcher boy who became a multimillionaire.

His disciples, some of whom kiss his feet in rapt adoration, have been praying that he wins the case. They are sure he will because they believe he is here to save the world.

The mind guru, from Arbour Hill in Dublin, is shrewd enough not to say upfront that he is actually the Messiah. Instead he has always dropped heavy hints. One female devotee recalls him suggesting that he might even walk on water. He was not amused when she laughed.

Another said he talked of being in Nazareth and how he felt sand at his feet. He gave his acolytes biblical names, such as St Peter and Moses. "He did everything to make you think he was Jesus," says former follower Maire Lalor. "Many believed it."

Nowadays, Quinn promotes himself as a business guru, who has been known to charge up to €63,500 per head for his mind-coaching seminars.

He promises to help his clients, who have included senior figures from business such as the bookmaking tycoon John Boyle, to reprogramme the "hard drive" of their minds.

In an interview on his website, where he is pictured next to a yacht, Quinn says: "Bill Gates transformed the world through computers. My vision is to transform the world through mind technology."

And in his most unlikely venture yet, he is also the director of an oil company, which at one time was pumping out crude worth more than €500m per year in Belize.

Last year his holding in the energy firm was valued at €18 million. Directors gave him a substantial shareholding after some came to the belief that his mind-bending techniques had helped them to strike oil.

Oil is just one part of a multinational spiritual conglomerate, which includes Educo seminars, health shops and paid-for prayers.

When the Irish Independent called at the Tony Quinn Centre in Eccles Street, Dublin, they said the man himself, or his sidekick Aideen Cowman, would pray on our behalf for a fee of €30 per month. And yes, of course, they accepted credit cards.

The man himself is now far away from his Eccles Street base. He lives the life of a perma-tanned mystical tycoon on Paradise Island in the Bahamas, with his glamorous young South African partner Amelie Hattingh, who at one time had ambitions to become a professional golfer.

She changed her first name to Eve after she met him. According to a former associate, she got the name after she arrived at one of Quinn's seminars with a bag of Pink Lady apples. The couple had never met.

Quinn, in an obvious biblical allusion, was heard to say, "Eve, I presume" -- and the name stuck.

He may be Ireland's richest guru, but the one-time bodybuilder is in danger of crashing back to earth as a series of continuing court cases expose his empire to greater scrutiny.

Some of the founders of the oil company, International Natural Energy (INE), of which he is a significant shareholder, have fallen out.

Over the past fortnight, evidence has been heard in a case brought against Quinn and INE by a former director, Sheila McCaffrey. The businesswoman, who was previously a devotee, alleges the company has been mismanaged and run to the detriment of shareholders.

It is claimed the company has earned hundreds of millions of euro from Belize oil wells since 2005, but has never paid dividends.

Quinn and his entourage arrived for the case in the British Virgin Islands in a private jet and he spent two days answering questions last week.

But aside from that, Quinn has not commented publicly on the controversy and a list of questions submitted to him by the Irish Independent this week went unanswered.

He has much to lose if the proceedings don't go his way. Quinn was given 64,000 shares in INE in 2006. An agreement was reached for him to sell them back to the company for €18m last August. The deal has been put on hold pending the outcome. More worryingly for the guru, he is also being sued in the Dublin High Court in a civil action by Lalor, his former follower, for alleged sexual assault, battery and fraudulent misrepresentation.

Appearing in the Caribbean court case about the oil company in the past few days, Quinn accused her of blackmail. He told the court Lalor had been a good friend for 20 years, but had turned against him and threatened to start a negative campaign unless he paid her off.

Lalor strenuously denied these allegations when contacted by the Irish Independent this week.

She first came across Quinn in 1982 after she met one of his followers in a nightclub in Malahide. Quinn was already a household name across Dublin with his own brand of yoga and he led a number of communes.

The late journalist June Levine described Quinn's early guru status after she visited a commune in 1974: "They adore Tony and believe they are reincarnated with him from past lives at the time of Christ."

When Lalor first became involved with the Quinn outfit, he was a hands-on healer. He would touch devotees and give them a blast of energy, likening the effect to giving a charge to the battery of a car.

"Some people there would jump around, fall off their chairs or flap about on the floor," she said. "He had a mesmerising effect. He might tap me on the back of the head, and I would fall to the ground in a trance." At one stage, Quinn asked Lalor to kiss his feet and she is embarrassed to admit that she did.

Lalor, now an executive personal assistant based in Waterford, worked for Quinn as a healing therapist, and later sold seminars for him.

As Quinn rebranded his outfit and began to concentrate on his mind-coaching sessions in the 1990s, the money really began to pour in. "I remember there were 40 people going to one beginners' seminar, each paying IR£15,000," said Lalor.

Quinn moved to the Bahamas in the 1990s, where he holds most of his Educo events. In the Celtic Tiger years there were many takers for beginners' seminars costing €18,500, but prices have recently dropped.

Ralph McCutcheon, an osteopath from Co Down, flew to the Bahamas for one of the events. He describes Quinn as a master of stagecraft.

"Someone else would do a presentation, and then suddenly Quinn would arrive, appearing from the back of a limo, with a fanfare. It was like Tom Jones appearing on stage.

"Then he would talk a load of nonsense for hours until you became bored and disoriented."

The bookmaker John Boyle of Boylesports has been so impressed with Quinn's teachings that his employees now do courses given by a long-time associate of the guru, Georgina Dolan.

On Quinn's Educoworld website, Boyle tells how the mind-programming technique transformed his life. "I went on the seminar and now I am feeling awesome, happy and at my all-time best."

The Irish Independent asked Boylesports about the Quinn link to the courses on offer. In a statement, which made no mention of Quinn, it defended the courses, saying they were aimed at supporting the "self-development and career path" of staff.

It said the courses would "focus on various elements of our business model including sales, customer service, social media, IT training and responsible gambling. In doing so, we are enabling our staff to take charge of building their successful career and, in turn, growing our company to ensure its continued success."

The courses were recently highlighted by Mike Garde, of the cult-busting organisation Dialogue Ireland, which has followed Quinn's spiritual movement closely.

"He has gone from being a Yogic master and Jesus figure promoting a kind of alternative semi-Catholicism to being the leader of an economic cult," he said.

From his beginnings as a butcher's apprentice in Arbour Hill to his sun-soaked nirvana in the Bahamas, Quinn has proved himself to be a remarkably resilient figure.

But a growing number of his former devotees are now prepared to speak out and it remains to be seen if he can keep the money pouring in for much longer.

Indo Review