Quinns warned by judge to comply with orders to reverse 'conspiracy'
A THREAT of jail continues to hang over bankrupt businessman Seán Quinn, his son Seán and nephew Peter after a High Court judge indicated yesterday she would consider punitive measures if they failed to comply with orders aimed at reversing a “conspiracy” to move assets in the Quinn international property group (IPG) beyond the reach of the former Anglo Irish Bank.
Ms Justice Elizabeth Dunne, who on Tuesday found the three guilty of contempt of court orders restraining the stripping of multi-million euro assets in the IPG, warned she would “not sit idly by” and allow the court’s orders to be breached via an “impermissible” asset-stripping conspiracy.
She would not disagree with the bank’s description of the contempt as “flagrant” and was disappointed there was no acknowledgement by the three, “even at this stage”, of the “great wrongdoing” involved.
She was “mesmerised” by arguments on behalf of the three that the bank was not entitled to several coercive orders on grounds it had not, in its original contempt motion, alleged the wider number of asset-stripping activities now alleged.
Those activities only emerged from evidence during the contempt hearing and it was quite clear other steps were taken outside of the specific contempts alleged, she said.
This was “of grave disquiet” and the judge said she was satisfied all three were involved in a conspiracy to deprive Anglo of access to assets in circumstances where they admitted the bank was owed €455 million while disputing its claim for a further €2.3 billion.
She has given the three until July 20th to comply with a large number of coercive orders. Refusing an application by Bill Shipsey SC, for the Quinns, for more time, she said the matter had to be addressed very urgently and she was anxious nothing should happen “that should not happen”.
She also refused to grant a stay on the orders or on her findings of contempt pending any possible appeal to the Supreme Court.
Mr Shipsey had argued that committal to prison was “a last resort” and the only orders that could be made were ones giving the three an opportunity to purge their contempt in relation to the three specific contempt findings.
If the bank wanted the breadth of orders sought, it had to bring additional contempt proceedings, he added. There would be difficulties unwinding some transactions as they involved individuals and companies in Russia and Ukraine.
Mr Shipsey also indicated that the Quinns were considering an appeal against the contempt findings.
Senior counsel Paul Gallagher, for the bank, said its primary aim was to protect the assets in the IPG via the coercive orders sought, but the court also had discretion, given the “flagrant” contempt here and the response of the three, to impose whatever sanction it deemed appropriate.
The contempt was “so blatant, deliberate and extensive” in scale the court might feel some punitive element was also required, he said.
An “elaborate scheme had been hatched” but the court was being asked now to ignore all this as if it never happened and require the bank to bring further proceedings when the contempt case was heard over 15 days, Mr Gallagher added.
The three had offered no apology to the court and it was “extraordinary” that no remorse had been voiced by them. Nor were they offering any clear proposals to reverse asset-stripping measures or to resign from IPG companies.
The bank remained concerned about the IPG assets and still had been given no information about what was happening to some $35 million rental income from properties in the IPG, Mr Gallagher said.
Ms Justice Dunne ruled that the bank was entitled to a range of coercive orders, including orders requiring the three to disclose all their assets held directly or indirectly in Ireland and worldwide and appointing a receiver over those assets, apart from family homes and jointly held accounts.
The three were also ordered to disclose all documents relating to work carried out for them by an international law firm, Senat Legal Consultancy, including all documents related to all offshore or other companies purchased or controlled by Senat in connection with IPG companies.
They must also disclose rental payments related to IPG companies and all directors and other agents of the companies.
They must also resign from IPG companies and withdraw any legal actions aimed at removing assets of those companies. Other orders aimed at assisting the bank in unwinding asset-stripping transactions were also made.