'Blatant, dishonest and deceitful'
BANKRUPT businessman Seán Quinn, his son Seán and nephew Peter Darragh Quinn could face jail after being found guilty of contempt of court orders restraining them putting assets worth tens of millions of euro in their international property group beyond the reach of the former Anglo Irish Bank.
All three engaged in a “complex, complicated and no doubt costly” series of steps designed to put assets beyond the reach of the bank, in “a blatant, dishonest and deceitful manner”, Ms Justice Elizabeth Dunne said, and she was satisfied beyond reasonable doubt they were guilty of contempt.
All three were “untruthful” at times to the court. Seán Quinn snr and his nephew were also evasive and unco-operative and she was “not impressed” with the evidence of any of them, some of which was “frankly unbelievable”.
The judge will rule on Friday what sanctions should be imposed after hearing from both sides but indicated, given her findings, she would find it “very difficult” not to include a “punitive” element.
The bank previously said it wanted a punitive sanction as well as a coercive one and is to indicate to the Quinn side by 8pm today what sanction it proposes.
In a lengthy judgment sharply critical of all three, Ms Justice Dunne found that they had “consciously misled” courts here and abroad and sought to deprive Anglo of assets which would go some way towards discharging their “admitted indebtedness”.
The Quinns accept they owe the bank some €455 million but deny owing it an additional €2.3 billion, she said. Instead of trying to repay the admitted debt, the family and especially the three respondents had taken “every step possible” to put assets beyond the bank’s reach.
Seaán Quinn had during his evidence spoken of the Quinn Group and its importance as an employer of some 7,000 people and one could appreciate the ability that led to the creation of such a business empire, she said.
He had also spoken of the “honourable, respectable” way in which the businesses of the Quinn Group were run.
“I wish I could say the same about the manner in which the respondents have dealt with the adverse circumstances in which they now find themselves having regard to the collapse of the Quinn business empire,” the judge said.
The behaviour of the three was “as far removed from the concept of honour and respectability as it is possible to be”.
The three had opposed and obstructed Anglo’s contempt proceedings “every step of the way”, leading to proceedings in several countries and the bank had encountered significant hurdles obtaining documents and information.
Irish Bank Resolution Corpoation, formerly Anglo, had alleged contempt of orders made in June and July 2011 by Mr Justice Frank Clarke restraining dissipation of assets in the family’s international property group valued at up to €500 million.
The contempt application arose in proceedings by the bank against the three, other Quinn family members and some companies aimed at protecting assets in the group.
The three admitted steps were taken to put assets beyond the bank’s reach but denied any actions were taken after the court orders were made.
Ms Justice Dunne upheld claims of contempt against Seán Quinn Senior and Peter Quinn via their involvement in assignment of about $130 million worth of loans to Galfis Overseas Ltd, a Belize entity, for nominal consideration on or after July 20th, 2011 and in backdating those loans to April 2011.
She also found contempt against the two over their involvement in an assigment in July 2011 of a €45.2 million debt to a Northern Ireland company, Innishmore, controlled by Peter Darragh Quinn, with a view to taking control of a Ukranian property asset – the Univermag shopping centre – worth about $78 million. A Northern Ireland court recently declared that assignment was invalid.
She ruled all three were guilty of contempt arising from their involvement in late August 2011 in a process leading to a $500,000 payment being made out of the accounts of Quinn Properties Ukraine to its general director, Larisa Yanez Puga, just as IBRC was taking over that company. That money remains frozen and all three had denied any involvement in the transaction.