Incredible bitterness displayed in Quinn case, says judge
A SUPREME court judge has said the Quinn family and Anglo Irish Bank have questions to answer in litigation being fought with “extraordinary bitterness” by both sides.
Mr Justice Adrian Hardiman, in a dissenting judgment in an appeal by Seán Quinn jnr (33) against his being jailed for contempt, said each side considered that the other had perpetrated “grave injustices” against it.
He said the bank, which now forms part of the State-owned Irish Bank Resolution Corporation (IBRC), believed the family had failed to pay its debts and had thereby added to its difficulties.
The Quinns, he said, “consider that Anglo has ruined them by treating them in a cynical and manipulative fashion, and in particular by inducing certain of them to borrow money for the purpose of attempting to prop up the Anglo share price by the purchase of its shares, when the latter were in, or approaching, free fall”.
The judge, in a written judgement by the Supreme Court published yesterday, noted that there were criminal proceedings outstanding over some aspects of the bank’s dealings with the Quinns.
The bank has taken a case alleging the family has conspired to asset-strip an international property group worth hundreds of millions of euro over which the bank has security.
Mr Quinn, his father Seán Quinn snr (66) and Seán snr’s nephew, Peter Darragh Quinn (35), were found guilty of contempt in June in relation to breaches of a court order that they desist in this scheme.
The case returns to court next Thursday, when Seán snr is facing the prospect of jail. His son, who has already served a three-month sentence, faces the possibility of being returned to prison. A warrant is in existence for Peter Darragh Quinn, who is believed to be in Northern Ireland.
Last week the High Court was told by the bank that “nothing” had been done to reverse the breaches since the contempt findings.
The family claims it desisted in its asset-stripping scheme once told to do so last year by the High Court.
It has taken a case where it is claiming it does not owe IBRC €2.8 billion as claimed because the debts are tainted by illegality as a result of being part of a share support scheme.
This case may be heard next year.
The family has an undisputed debt of €450 million with the bank.
In his judgment, which was supported by three of his colleagues, Mr Justice Niall Fennelly of the Supreme Court said the High Court had ample evidence to support its decision to find Seán jnr guilty of contempt in relation to the payment of $500,000 to a Ukrainian woman who runs a shopping mall in Ukraine.
He also dismissed the appeal against Seán jnr’s three-month sentence and upheld the appeal against the High Court’s decision to send him to jail indefinitely pending the reversal of other transactions he had not been found guilty of involvement in. But he said the court’s ruling “does not prevent the bank from making a further application to the High Court” to have Seán jnr returned to jail until he purged the contempt of which he has been found guilty.
Mr Justice Hardiman said Anglo and the Quinn family businesses had been stars of the Celtic Tiger. The then government’s guarantee of Anglo and the other banks in September 2008 was likely to dominate the Irish economy for years to come, he said. The Quinn group had also collapsed, with administrators and receivers appointed to it.