Question of time: Quinn keeps watch as son sent down
QUINN CONTEMPT CASE:ONE EAGLE-eyed observer noticed during yesterday’s court hearing that Seán Quinn snr wasn’t wearing the expensive watch he had worn every day during the long-running contempt of court action.
It’s hard to interpret this as a sign of Quinn’s view on the potential outcome of yesterday’s hearing – namely, whether he, his son Seán and nephew Peter had complied with orders purging what the judge called “outrageous” contempt, or what the court would do if they hadn’t.
Early in the hearing their lawyers wanted to know whether the former Anglo Irish Bank was seeking coercive or punitive action over their failure to comply with orders to unravel a conspiracy of putting assets beyond the bank.
In other words, was the State-owned bank seeking to have the men jailed or would it give them time to comply so they could do more to help the bank secure €500 million of assets in the family’s international property group?
The Quinn side argued that the men had done everything they could to reverse the transactions and that it made little sense to jail Seán Quinn jnr and Peter Quinn when they were the “best placed” to help the bank.
The Quinns had argued in detailed affidavits filed in the early hours of yesterday morning that they have done everything possible to comply with court orders, they had written many letters and had disclosed many documents.
They were helpless to do more due to the attitudes of others, they said. Bill Shipsey SC, for the Quinns, said Quinn jnr and his brother-in-law Stephen Kelly had travelled to Russia to a law firm called A&B, previously hired by the Quinns, to try to reverse asset transfers but the firm was “calm but forceful” in refusing to help.
His clients had “done what they can,” said Mr Shipsey, “but regrettably events are now out of their control.”
Peter Quinn and Seán Quinn jnr also feared returning to Ukraine, the court was told, but the judge couldn’t see why this was the case.
Irish Bank Resolution Corporation, formerly Anglo, argued there had been a “very significant failure” to comply with coercive court orders and wanted further coercive efforts perhaps along with punitive measures.
The bank said there may be no alternative but to jail Peter and Seán Quinn jnr and leave Seán Quinn snr, who was at the peak of the hierarchy of control in the family, to take steps to put assets back within the bank’s control.
This is ultimately what the judge agreed to do – a mix of coercive and punitive measures to force the Quinns to help the State-owned bank secure control of €500 million worth of properties.
Ms Justice Dunne said it was difficult to accept that the Quinns were helpless to overturn the asset transfers, as they had claimed.
The judge was also swayed by a series of transactions, which were only disclosed to the bank early yesterday morning, about which she expressed surprise.
She was surprised at the late disclosures of a $1 million payment to the A&B law firm by the Quinns and the employment contracts for Peter Quinn and Seán Quinn jnr.
She was surprised that since April 2011, when the bank seized control of the Quinns’ businesses, €2.8 million was paid to Quinn jnr, his wife Karen Woods, his sisters, Aoife, Colette and Ciara; Kelly and his other brothers-in-law Niall McPartland, and Peter Quinn.
She was concerned about the transfer of part of a stake in a Russian company, denied by Peter Quinn but which “appeared to have his handwriting all over it”.
Peter Quinn’s failure to show in court only added to the drama of a tense hearing in a packed courtroom. Before jail was being contemplated for anyone, an arrest warrant was issued for Peter Quinn so he could be brought to court.
His solicitor had received a message on his phone at 10.15am to say that Quinn was sick and unable to attend court that day.
The judge issued a warrant for his arrest before lunch but told the gardaí to exercise discretion if he had a “real and genuine illness”. Despite repeated attempts to reach him, there were no further details about Peter Quinn’s illness or his whereabouts when the judge sentenced him and his Seán Quinn jnr to three months in prison.
Quinn snr was lucky to have avoided jail. He must now work with the bank he has been battling to secure control of his former international properties so his son can be freed earlier and possibly to prevent his own incarceration.
DERRYLIN TO FOUR COURTS
1973Seán Quinn starts quarrying business from the family farm in Derrylin, Co Fermanagh.
1996Quinn Insurance founded.
1998Quinn Glass founded, initially in Derrylin, and later expanding to Britain.
2000Quinn Life Insurance founded.
2003Quinn buys a 20 per cent stake in NCB Stockbrokers.
2004Quinn Plastics founded with the acquisition of the listed Barlo Group.
2007Quinn family starts investing heavily in Anglo Irish Bank, eventually amassing a holding of 28 per cent through contracts for difference. Also establishes Quinn Healthcare with the acquisition of Bupa’s Irish business.
January 2008:Seán Quinn snr is reportedly the richest person in Ireland, worth a reputed €4.72 billion with a portfolio of businesses including hotels, glass, building supplies, healthcare and insurance.
OctoberQuinn fined €200,000 and stands down as chairman of Quinn Insurance after breaching corporate rules by using money from the business to cover costs of Anglo deal.
March 2010Administrators appointed to Quinn Insurance as major losses are disclosed for 2009 and 2010.
April 2011Quinn loses control of business empire.
July 2011The Quinn family consents to orders from Mr Justice Frank Clarke in the High Court prohibiting them transferring assets off the family’s international property group beyond the reach of Anglo Irish Bank.
November 2011Anglo Irish Bank moves to enforce €2 billion in loan guarantees given by Quinn, who had borrowed millions to buy contracts for difference in Anglo Irish Bank but lost it all when the shares became worthless.
November 2011Quinn is declared bankrupt in Northern Ireland over the alleged €2.8 billion owed to Anglo Irish Bank.
January 2012A judge rules that Quinn was not entitled to file for bankruptcy in Northern Ireland. He is subsequently declared bankrupt in the Republic.
June 2012Quinn, his son Seán and nephew Peter Darragh Quinn are found guilty of contempt of court orders restraining them from putting assets in their international property group beyond the reach of the former Anglo Irish Bank.
July 1st, 2012Video footage shows Seán Quinn jnr and Peter Quinn negotiating payment from businessmen in the Ukraine, with Peter Quinn admitting willingness to lie under oath.
July 20th, 2012Seán Quinn jnr and Peter Quinn, who fails to turn up in court, are jailed for three months.