Court to rule on Quinn tomorrow

Thu, Nov 1, 2012, 00:00

Bankrupt businessman Seán Quinn will find out tomorrow whether he will be jailed for contempt of court orders restraining asset stripping at his family's International Property Group (IPG).

Ms Justice Elizabeth Dunne said she will rule tomorrow at 11am on whether to impose a penal sanction on the 66-year-old businessman.

She will hear next week whether IBRC, the former Anglo Irish Bank, wants the businessman's son Sean jnr to take any further steps to reverse the asset-stripping scheme.

Eugene Grant QC, for Mr Quinn, earlier urged the judge not to jail his client, whom he described as "broken", "bereft" and "forlorn" as a result of the bank's actions.

It would be much more productive to monitor and encourage Mr Quinn in working with the bank in its efforts to recover assets, he said. 

Mr Quinn, a wealth creator and once Ireland's leading entrepreneur whose companies employed 5,500 people in Ireland, will be a bankrupt into his 70s as a result of the bank's actions, counsel added. Mr Quinn also had serious health problems.

Mr Quinn was also maintaining his denial of being in contempt of court orders restraining stripping of assets, and he was appealing the High Court's finding that he was in contempt, counsel said. The court should defer any decision on jailing Mr Quinn pending that appeal, he urged.

Mr Quinn also believed it would not be possible to recover certain assets and insisted he had done everything possible to assist the bank's efforts to recover them.

In an affidavit, Mr Quinn said he was absolutely committed to purging his contempt, but could do no more than he already had. This matter had devastated his family and culminated in the jailing of his son, he said.

In another affidavit, Mr Quinn jnr said his father was not involved in implementation of the asset-stripping scheme, had only had an overview of it and was incapable of reversing it.

Shane Murphy SC, for IBRC, said it was for the court to decide whether to impose a punitive sanction on Mr Quinn.

The bank contended Mr Quinn and members of his family had not co-operated with its efforts to recover assets, and any decision made by the court on a punitive sanction should accord with its findings last June of contempt against Mr Quinn, he said.

Mr Murphy noted Ms Justice Dunne had found aspects of Mr Quinn's evidence to the court during the contempt hearing as not credible, evasive and unco-operative, and found he had given his "imprimatur" to the asset-stripping scheme.

The judge also found the scheme was implemented in a blatant, dishonest and deceitful manner.

The core issue was that this was a serious contempt with the object of putting assets beyond the reach of IBRC, and the evidence was Mr Quinn had not purged that contempt, he said. Mr Quinn had also not apologised except in relation to one issue concerning signing documents related to an Indian company.

Mr Quinn's health was a mitigating factor that the court could consider alongside the aggravating factors outlined, counsel said.

Last June, Ms Justice Dunne had made a contempt finding against Mr Quinn snr via his involvement in assignment of multi-million loans from IPG companies, backdating of documents and involvement in a US$500,000 payment to Ukrainian woman Larissa Puga, general director of Quinn Properties Ukraine, on the eve of its takeover by IBRC.

She also found Seán Quinn jnr and his cousin Peter Darragh Quinn in contempt of court orders restraining stripping of assets. 

She made orders last July jailing Mr Quinn jnr and Peter Daragh Quinn, but said she would not jail Mr Quinn snr at that point so as to leave him free to take steps to unwind the asset-stripping scheme.

Earlier today, IBRC said it is very concerned that moves are continuing which could result in putting valuable assets in the IPG permanently beyond recovery. It wants to enter a joint venture arrangement with a Russian-based assets recovery company. 

The bank believes this is the only means whereby it can recover assets for the Irish taxpayer, its counsel said. The bank had exhausted all legal remedies available to it acting alone, he added.