Quinn jailed for 'outrageous and serious contempt'
SEÁN QUINN CASE:SEÁN QUINN has begun a nine-week period of imprisonment after a High Court judge ruled that his contempt of court orders, restraining stripping of multimillion assets from his family’s international property group, was so serious and outrageous that she must jail him.
While Mr Quinn had spoken about how the court proceedings had negatively consumed his life and that of his family, Ms Justice Elizabeth Dunne said: “In my view, he has only himself to blame.”
Ms Justice Dunne said she could not ignore the extent and degree of contempt by Mr Quinn and, taking all various matters into account, including mitigating factors such as his health problems, age, previous good character, charitable donations and that there had been “a degree” of co-operation by him, she would impose a nine-week jail term.
Ms Justice Dunne delivered her ruling just after 11am yesterday but the issue of whether a stay on that term pending appeal would apply was adjourned until 12.50pm at the request of Mr Quinn’s lawyers.
Eugene Grant QC said he wanted to take instructions as to whether Mr Quinn would begin the term of imprisonment immediately or wished to seek a stay pending his appeal against the judge’s findings last June that he acted in “outrageous” contempt.
Irish Bank Resolution Corporation had indicated through Shane Murphy SC that it would agree to a stay provided an appeal was progressed speedily.
When the court reconvened at 12.50pm, Mr Grant said Mr Quinn wanted to begin serving his sentence. While Mr Quinn was proceeding with his Supreme Court appeal, he was doing so in recognition of the recent Supreme Court decision dismissing his son’s appeal against being jailed. There were issues common to the appeals, added Mr Grant.
He said Mr Quinn (66) had a number of grandchildren and he was anxious to attend a grandchild’s christening on December 22nd. As he was not eligible for remission due to this being a sentence for contempt, Mr Grant asked that the court agree to release him for that event.
Mr Murphy said compassionate release was a matter for the prison authorities to decide and the judge agreed.
Having reviewed matters since her decision last June finding Mr Quinn in contempt of court orders of June and July 2011, restraining asset-stripping from the family’s International Property Group so as to put them beyond the bank’s reach, Ms Justice Dunne in her ruling yesterday said she regarded Mr Quinn’s contempt as so serious she could only conclude it mandated a term of imprisonment.
This case was about protecting assets which could be used to satisfy any judgment obtained by the bank against the Quinns, she said. IBRC, formerly Anglo Irish Bank, claimed it was owed €2.8 billion by the Quinns and, while there was a serious dispute about that which she did not have to decide now, it was accepted that €455 million was owed by the Quinns to the bank.
Putting assets beyond the reach of the bank in defiance of the court’s orders was, as she had previously found, “nothing short of outrageous”. The bank had had to engage in extensive litigation trying to recover assets but had not to date succeeded.
It was not disputed that significant assets had been put beyond the reach of IBRC and the position of the Quinn defendants appeared to be that they were so successful in that regard, they themselves could not retrieve the assets, the judge said.
She did not have to decide that issue now as the sole issue before her was whether to impose a punitive sanction. She was dealing with punitive issues arising from past non-compliance with court orders.
It was important to ensure court orders were complied with and the integrity of the court system was not set at naught by “an egregious breach of court orders”.
The judge referred to her previous findings of contempt against Mr Quinn and her rejection of his evidence in the contempt hearing as not credible, evasive and unco-operative. She had also found he had given his imprimatur to the asset-stripping scheme.
She had found that Mr Quinn was in contempt via involvement in the assignment of multimillion loans and the backdating of documents with a view to showing the assignments occurred before the court orders.
She also found contempt via his involvement in a €500,000 payment to Larissa Puga, general director of Quinn Properties Ukraine, on the eve of the bank’s takeover of that company.
Mr Quinn had denied involvement in any of those matters and is appealing her findings in that regard. This week he also said he had co-operated fully with the bank in its efforts to recover assets but the bank disputed those claims.
The judge referred to the “impassioned plea” by Mr Grant not to jail Mr Quinn.
He had said Mr Quinn had several health issues and had fallen from being Ireland’s richest man employing up to 8,000 people to a position where he was “broken”, “bereft” and “bankrupt”.
The bank had argued that Mr Quinn had failed to purge his contempt and that it believed various Quinn family members were continuing to direct steps to prevent it from recovering assets for the Irish taxpayer. Those claims were denied.
The judge delivered her ruling in a courtroom packed with lawyers, journalists and supporters of Mr Quinn. Mr Quinn’s son Seán and sons-in-law Niall McPartland and Stephen Kelly were also in court. IBRC was represented by its chief executive Mike Aynsley and senior executive Richard Woodhouse.
THE JUDGE SEÁN QUINN
Ms Justice Elizabeth Dunne
on Mr Quinn’s contempt:
“Nothing short of outrageous”
“Mr Quinn spoke of the way in which these proceedings ‘negatively consumed’ his life and that of his wife’s family. In my view, he has only himself to blame.”
“I cannot come to any other conclusion but that the contempt of court of which Mr Quinn was found guilty falls into the category of cases involving serious misconduct.”
Seán Quinn snr
“They put me in jail, my son in jail, for the dissipating of assets of companies the family owned and that the bank had never loaned a penny to.”