Legal advisers' travel costs 'paid by Russian companies'

Sat, Oct 20, 2012, 01:00

TRAVEL COSTS for the legal team that acted for Seán Quinn’s family in the case where the family swore it had stopped dissipating the assets of a foreign property group, may have been paid out of those assets, the High Court has been told.

In the case Seán Quinn snr, Seán Quinn jnr and Peter Darragh Quinn denied acting in contempt of a June 2011 order of the High Court that they desist from asset-stripping the property group’s companies.

Ms Justice Elizabeth Dunne rejected their evidence, found all three guilty of contempt of court, and sent Mr Quinn jnr to jail.

In an affidavit to the court yesterday, Irish Bank Resolution Corporation executive Richard Woodhouse disclosed information the bank has gleaned from the hard drive of a computer that was deliberately smashed after an administrator acting for the bank’s interests was appointed to Russian company Finansstroy.

These emails, Mr Woodhouse said, showed that Finansstroy, which the Quinns had told the court was no longer under their control, had in fact been under its control right up to the actual contempt hearings.

Finansstroy, which is associated with a valuable commercial tower in Moscow, the Kutuzoff Tower, paid the expenses of family members on trips to Moscow, Kiev and other destinations associated with the family’s property portfolio.

At the time the family had been the subject of the 2011 High Court order, issued at the request of IBRC, which has been having difficulty asserting its security over the property group.

Retrieved emails showed it was “standard practice” for the family to use group companies to arrange and pay for family travel and expenses, including a trip to Zurich by an unnamed sister of Seán Quinn snr.

“Indeed the travel arrangements of Irish legal advisers to the Quinn family appear from these documents to have been paid for by the Russian . . . companies, although there is nothing to suggest that they were aware of this,” Mr Woodhouse said.

The Quinns were represented by senior counsel Bill Shipsey and Brian O’Moore, and Eversheds solicitors. The legal team came off record on September 3rd last, as the family said it could no longer pay them.

Mr Woodhouse said that in the period July 2011 to July 2012, Mr Quinn jnr travelled to Moscow between 16 and 20 times, to Kiev between eight and 12 times, to Dubai twice and to Cyprus.

Aoife Quinn travelled to Moscow eight times, to Dubai seven times, to Abu Dhabi once, to Ukraine twice, and to London, Cyprus and Zurich, all at the expense of property group companies, Mr Woodhouse said.

Her husband Stephen Kelly went to Moscow eight to 11 times, five times to the United Arab Emirates and once to Kiev.

In late July 2011, Ciara and Colette Quinn and Niall McPartland, husband of Ciara, travelled to Moscow to set up bank accounts so as to receive salaries from the Russian companies.

The emails show that on February 10th, 2012, Peter and Aoife Quinn travelled to Dubai on the same day as Ukrainian national Iaroslav Gurniak, with Peter Quinn arranging Mr Gurniak’s expenses would be paid by Finansstroy. Mr Gurniak is associated with a Belize company called Galfis, which IBRC says was used by the Quinns to asset-strip their property group.

In a statement last night, Eversheds said it “sought and received written assurances that any funds used in the Irish litigation were not from IPG sources, but were from bona fide Quinn family sources.”