Ukrainians may face jail in NI over Quinn assets role

Wed, Nov 7, 2012, 00:00

A Ukrainian lawyer and an economist may face jail in Northern Ireland for their role in alleged asset stripping by the Quinn family. Oleksandr Serpokrylov and Dmytro Zaitsev appeared before the Northern Ireland High Court yesterday by video-link to defend contempt of court proceedings over the transfer of a $45 million claim against a shopping centre in Kiev.

Lawyers for the Irish Bank Resolution Corporation claim the two men, as representatives of a mysterious offshore company Lyndhurst Development Trading, ignored an injunction against any transfer of debts surrounding the mall.

The net effect of their action was to put the shopping centre beyond the reach of IRBC, which is seeking control of the Quinn’s international property empire in an attempt to recoup more than £2 billion.As part of the wider legal battle the British Virgin Islands-registered Lyndhurst Development Trading was prohibited from enforcing any loan agreement under the terms of an emergency injunction granted in Belfast last December.

It is alleged that later that day the order was ignored at a hearing in Kiev. Lyndhurst secured judgment from the Ukrainian court that it was entitled to enforce a $45 million debt against the firm that owns the mall, Univermag.

A judge in Belfast has already ruled the property debt was transferred from one of Mr Quinn’s companies to put it beyond the reach of IBRC.

Mr Justice McCloskey held earlier this year that those responsible for the loan assignment were “indulging in an orchestrated, elaborate and illicit charade”. All disputed transactions were declared null and void, with control returned to the former Anglo Irish Bank.

A chain of assignments scrutinised in the case set out how Fermanagh-based firm Demesne Investments, of which Mr Quinn is a former director, had been owed $45 million by Univermag.

But in April 2011 Demesne transferred its rights to the debt to Innishmore Consultancy, another Northern Ireland company run by Mr Quinn’s nephew Peter Quinn. From there the loan was moved on to Lyndhurst last October.

Lawyers for IBRC argued the assignment was a sham, part of an asset-stripping exercise carried out at a massive undervalue and not worth the paper it was written on.

If found guilty Mr Serpokrylov and Mr Zaitsez could be jailed. But with both men remaining in the Ukraine, any such outcome is unlikely to be enforceable while they remain outside the European Union.