Quinn jnr freed pending new High Court hearing
SEÁN QUINN jnr has been freed from jail pending a High Court hearing to decide if he has complied with court orders aimed at stopping the stripping of multimillion euro assets from the Quinn family’s international property group (IPG).
Mr Quinn, who was jailed on July 20th last, could face a further period of detention and his father could also be jailed over the asset-stripping in light of material put before Ms Justice Elizabeth Dunne yesterday, about which she voiced “grave concerns”.
Of most concern was what had happened since July 20th, and she wanted to review matters urgently, as what she had heard was “disturbing” and “most sinister”, the judge said. She would adjourn the review to November 1st only and not for four weeks as sought by the Quinns.
She made the comments after Irish Bank Resolution Corporation, formerly Anglo Irish Bank, argued “nothing” had been done by Seán Quinn snr to reverse the asset-stripping measures, and the bank had obtained new material showing a “deeply disturbing” picture, including that the Quinns gave “totally false” and “misleading” evidence in the contempt proceedings against them.
The new material showed the “cynicism” of the Quinns and their deliberate violation of court orders, senior counsel Paul Gallagher, for IBRC, said. The Quinns “are still not disclosing what they have done” and actions were continuing to be taken that could lead to assets being “lost irretrievably”.
Things were happening, the bank only found out afterwards and then it found the legal landscape had changed, he said. The bank’s concerns, the court heard, were heightened by the lifting by Ukrainian courts last week of a freezing order obtained over a $500,000 (€383,650) payment to Larissa Puga in Ukraine, plus a recent bid to displace the bank as the main creditor in bankruptcy proceedings involving a Russian company holding the most valuable asset in the IPG, the Kutuzoff Tower in Moscow.
New lawyers representing Seán Quinn snr and his son said they needed time to take full instructions and to consider the potential for mediation of the issues between the sides.
They were instructed that Mr Quinn snr had been co-operating with the bank, Mr Quinn was 66 years old, had had two serious heart operations and this was about “his liberty”, counsel Eugene Grant said.
Seán Quinn jnr was in court yesterday because the judge had indicated, when she made orders jailing him and his cousin Peter Darragh Quinn last July, that she would review matters in three months to assess compliance by the Quinns with some 30 coercive orders aimed at reversing asset-stripping.
At the July 20th hearing, the judge said she would not jail Seán Quinn snr then because she wanted him to be free to reverse the asset-stripping scheme. Because Peter Darragh Quinn did not attend court, she issued a warrant for his arrest, which remains unexecuted as he remains in Northern Ireland. He did not attend court yesterday either and was not represented.
Yesterday, Mr Grant, for the Quinns, who said he was instructed just last Tuesday, asked the judge what was to happen to Seán Quinn jnr as the order jailing him had expired at midnight.
The judge said she thought it was to expire at midnight on Friday but added it was a matter for the prison authorities to release Mr Quinn on expiry of the order. When Mr Grant said the order expired at midnight Thursday, the judge said: “So be it.” Mr Grant said Mr Quinn jnr apologised for being in court in casual clothing as he had expected to be released on Thursday night.
Earlier, Mr Gallagher, for IBRC, said the case was in for review and the matter was urgent, but the bank was prepared to agree to a very short adjournment. This was to allow the Quinns’ new lawyers to prepare for the review hearing and also because the bank believed a full Supreme Court judgment dismissing Mr Quinn jnr’s appeal, to be issued next week, would assist the court as to how the coercive orders should be operated.
While dismissing the appeal last Wednesday, the Supreme Court had also vacated most of the coercive orders against Mr Quinn jnr and had said it would give its full reasons on October 24th.
Mr Gallagher said the bank wanted matters addressed quickly. He said nothing had been done to repay the $500,000 paid out of Quinn Properties Ukraine to general director Larissa Puga (all three Quinns were found in contempt of court over this payment) and a freezing order obtained by the bank on the Puga money had been lifted last week in Ukraine.
The bank had new evidence salvaged from the deliberately damaged server of a computer of a Russian company showing the Quinns were in control of IPG companies well into this year, he said.
The Quinns, counsel continued, had also arranged employment contracts providing for multi-million termination payments for themselves as a way of extracting cash from IPG companies, and the bank did not know if those payments had been made.
Mr Grant said he was instructed the Quinns had signed all documents put in front of them by the bank, except for one about which Mr Quinn was seeking legal advice. The Quinns were willing to sign documents but considered it would be helpful if the bank provided clarification of matters. Mr Quinn had “firmly instructed” he wanted to co-operate and purge his contempt.
The Quinns had also sought to mediate the issues with the bank, Mr Grant added. He sought a four-week adjournment, but the judge granted two weeks only.
Mr Gallagher said the co-operation from the Quinns was piecemeal. Court orders had to be complied with; they were “not for mediation”, he added.
The judge said she would adjourn to November 1st to allow the Quinns’ lawyers time and also because the Supreme Court judgment on Mr Quinn jnr’s appeal would be of assistance to the review.