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.