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Record fine for billionaire Quinn

Ireland's richest man was forced into a humiliating resignation and his flagship business hit with record €3m (£2.4m) fines last night after admitting financial blunders.

Billionaire Sean Quinn held his hands up after the country's financial watchdog found Quinn Insurance paid loans worth €288m (£232m) to other firms in his multinational empire.

The money was paid to cover failing stock market deals after the successful Fermanagh businessman invested heavily in Anglo-Irish Bank months before it was hit hard by the credit crunch.

Mr Quinn said he was very disappointed with the investment decisions which over-exposed some of his firms to stock market falls.

“I accept complete responsibility for this breach of regulation,” he said.

The 60-year-old, who has built an international business empire in 10 countries and is worth around €4bn (£3.2bn), will not face criminal proceedings over the bad deals.

But Mr Quinn hit out at the Financial Regulator for imposing record fines — a €200,000 (£160,000) personal penalty and a €3.25m (£2.6m) bill for Quinn Insurance.

“While I accept that I made mistakes, I feel that the levels of fines do not reflect the fact that there was no risk to policyholders or the taxpayer but are a result of the pressures existing in the current environment” Mr Quinn said.

“However, we will pay the fines and move on.”

The huge fine massively eclipses the previous record from March this year when Fexco Stockbroking was hit with an €80,000 (£64,600) bill. The maximum penalty is €5m (£4m).

The watchdog found that Quinn Insurance broke the rules when it arranged loans to other companies within the Quinn Group, including finance, glass, plastics, concrete, cement and leisure operations.

It said officials suspected that Quinn Insurance breached requirements under the Insurance Acts and Regulations after the firm failed to notify the Regulator about the loans.

Quinn Insurance customers were not affected by the deals.

Joan Burton, Labour Party deputy leader and finance spokeswoman in the Repubic, has called for Finance Minister Brian Lenihan to make a statement on the affair: "It appears that money was transferred from one insurance company to another to buy shares in a bank, at a time while all of these institutions were under the supervision of the Financial Regulator," Ms Burton said.

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