Belfast Telegraph

Tycoon Quinn Sean Quinn's freedom hangs in balance

Bankrupt businessman faces jail as case closes

By Tim Healy

A court in Dublin will rule next month on whether former Northern Irish billionaire Sean Quinn could end up in jail.

The Republic’s High Court has to decide whether bankrupt businessman Quinn, his son and his nephew acted in contempt of the court orders restraining them from putting assets beyond the reach of the former Anglo Irish Bank.

Judge Elizabeth Dunne said she would try and rule on the contempt claims as soon as possible but would not be in a position to deliver judgment in this law term, which ends on May 24. The next term opens on June 6.

The 15-day hearing of the application by Irish Bank Resolution Corporation (IBRC) for orders for attachment — an order to bring someone before a court — and, if necessary, committal of Mr Quinn, his son Sean jnr and nephew Peter Darragh Quinn for alleged contempt, concluded on Tuesday.

The judge has said she will first decide whether there was contempt before hearing arguments on what action should be taken.

In closing arguments for IBRC, Paul Gallagher said that Mr Quinn and members of his family had engaged in fraudulent conduct and had shown “a willingness to pervert the course of justice” and use the Irish and foreign courts for their own purposes.

The Quinns were “determined” to put assets beyond the reach of the bank and saw no distinction between assets in various companies and their own, he said.

This “wholesale dissipation of assets” was for “the avowed purpose” of ensuring that if the bank won its case aimed at recovering monies from those assets, there would be “nothing” there for it.

The only explanation put up by the Quinns for transfers of valuable assets for nothing, or for nominal sums, to parties apparently unconnected to the family, was that the objective was to get the assets away from Anglo Irish Bank and nothing else mattered, he said. That explanation had “no credibility”, he added.

All of this was done in a manner designed to go undetected and which would have gone undetected except for a breakthrough in proceedings in Northern Ireland where the “modus operandi” was accidentally and unintentionally disclosed, he said. This was also all done “with no hesitation or regret and repeated defiantly” before the court, Mr Gallagher said.

The three respondents have denied that they acted in contempt of court orders of June and July 2011 restraining them from placing assets in the Quinn International Property Group (IPG) beyond the bank's reach.

While steps were taken to prevent the bank from moving assets, no steps in furtherance of that were taken after the orders were made, they have argued.

The restraint orders were made in proceedings where the bank sought to prevent assets in the IPG, valued at up to €500m (£398m) and over which the bank claims it has securities, being put beyond its reach.

The bank claims contempt by Sean Quinn snr and Peter Quinn via their alleged involvement in the alleged assignment of about $130m (€102m; £81m) worth of loans to a Belize entity for a nominal consideration on or after July 20, 2011, and in back-dating those loans to April 2011.

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