Belfast Telegraph

Friday 29 August 2014

Majority of judges uphold Quinn's contempt ruling

Sean Quinn jnr leaves Dublin’s High Court with his wife Karen Woods

Four out of five Supreme Court judges in the Republic have agreed that the High Court in Dublin was entitled to conclude there was "outrageous" contempt by Sean Quinn jnr of court orders restraining stripping of assets from the Quinn's international property group.

There was "ample" evidence to justify the High Court finding "beyond reasonable doubt" that Sean Quinn jnr was involved in a $500,000 (£312,000) payment to a Ukrainian woman, Larissa Puga, in contempt of those orders, and it was entitled to jail him for three months, Mr Justice Nial Fennelly said yesterday.

Dissenting, Mr Justice Adrian Hardiman said there was no direct evidence to support the finding of contempt against Quinn jnr and "no legally recognisable basis" for granting a request by Irish Bank Resolution Corporation to jail him in order to put pressure on his father to reverse asset-stripping measures.

The proceedings leading to Quinn jnr being jailed were in the nature of "a summary criminal trial conducted by a judge sitting alone", he said.

The High Court failed to focus on the specific case made against Quinn jnr - as opposed to his father and cousin - and was not entitled, in the absence of direct evidence of the charge against him, to lock him up on evidence of a general nature he was "up to no good", added the judge.

The legal actions between IBRC, the former Anglo Irish Bank, and the Quinn family are being fought with "extraordinary bitterness" with each side considering the other had perpetrated grave injustices against it, the judge also observed. In those actions, both sides "have questions to answer".

All five judges agreed the High Court was not entitled to jail Quinn jnr indefinitely in an effort to procure his compliance with some 30 orders aimed at reversing a range of asset-stripping measures when there was no finding against him concerning those other measures. The court has set aside almost all of the coercive orders that relate to Quinn jnr.

The court delivered judgments outlining the reasons for its 4/1 ruling dismissing the appeal by Quinn jnr against the High Court finding he acted in contempt arising from the payment to Ms Puga, general director of Quinn Properties Ukraine, on the eve of the bank's takeover of that company.

The Chief Justice, Ms Justice Susan Denham; Mr Justice Donal O'Donnell and Mr Justice Liam McKechnie all agreed with Mr Justice Fennelly.

They dismissed Quinn jnr's appeal against the finding he was in contempt over the Puga payment and his appeal against his three-month sentence.

The coercive orders were sought by the bank with a view to procuring the reversal of a wide range of measures designed to strip up to $430m (£347m) assets from the Quinn's international property group so as to put them beyond the reach of IBRC, which is pursuing the Quinn family over some €2.8bn (£2.3bn) loans.

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