Court explains Quinn judgment
Four out of five Supreme Court judges today agreed the High Court was entitled to conclude there was "outrageous" contempt by Seán Quinn jnr of court orders restraining stripping of assets from the Quinns' international property group.
There was "ample" evidence to justify the High Court having found "beyond reasonable doubt" that Seán Quinn jnr was involved in a US$500,000 payment to a Ukrainian woman, Larissa Puga, in contempt of those same orders, and it was entitled to jail him for three months concerning that transaction, Mr Justice Nial Fennelly said when giving the majority 4/1 judgment today.
Dissenting, Mr Justice Adrian Hardiman said there was no direct evidence to support the finding of contempt against Mr Quinn jnr, and "no legally recognisable basis" for granting a request by Irish Bank Resolution Corporation to jail him so as to put pressure on his father to reverse asset-stripping measures.
The proceedings in the High Court leading to Mr Quinn jnr having been jailed were in the nature of "a summary criminal trial conducted by a judge sitting alone", he said.
The High Court failed to focus on the specific case made against Mr Quinn jnr, as opposed to his father and cousin, and was not entitled, in the absence of direct evidence of the single charge against him, to lock him up on foot of evidence of a general nature that he was "up to no good".
The legal actions between IBRC, the former Anglo Irish Bank, and the Quinn family are being fought with "extraordinary bitterness" with each side considering the other had perpetrated grave injustices against it, the judge also observed. In those actions, both sides "have questions to answer".
All five judges agreed the High Court was not entitled to jail Mr Qunn jnr indefinitely in an effort to procure his compliance with some 30 coercive orders aimed at reversing a wide range of asset-stripping measures when there was no finding against him concerning those other measures. The court has set aside almost all of the coercive orders insofar as they relate to Mr Quinn jnr.
The court today delivered judgments outlining the reasons for its 4/1 ruling last week dismissing the appeal by Mr Quinn jnr against the High Court finding he acted in contempt arising from the payment to Ms Puga, general director of Quinn Properties Ukraine, on the eve of the bank's takeover of that company.
The Chief Justice, Ms Justice Susan Denham; Mr Justice Donal O'Donnell and Mr Justice Liam McKechnie all agreed with Mr Justice Fennelly.
They dismissed Mr Quinn jr's appeal against the finding he was in contempt over the Puga payment and his appeal against the imposition of three months' imprisonment for this, but set aside her order jailing him indefinitely for failing to comply with the terms of some 30 coercive orders.
The coercive orders were sought by the bank with a view to procuring the reversal of a wide range of measures designed to strip up to $430 million of assets from the Quinns' international property group so as to put them beyond the reach of IBRC, which is pursuing the Quinn family over some €2.8 billion in loans.
Mr Justice Hardiman disagreed and said he would have allowed the appeal in its entirety.
Next week, Ms Justice Dunne is due to review whether Mr Quinn, his father and cousin Peter Darragh Quinn have made adequate efforts to purge their contempt. Seán Quinn jnr was freed from Mountjoy Prison training unit last Friday on expiry of the three-month detention period.