Quinns 'continued asset-stripping'

Wed, Oct 3, 2012, 01:00

The former Anglo Irish Bank has told the Supreme Court today it does not accept claims by the family of bankrupt businessman Seán Quinn that more than €430 million in assets in their international property group (IPG) are all gone and cannot be recovered.

The undisputed evidence was that, in order to remove monies from IPG companies, the Quinns had engaged in a "deliberate and complex fraud" of those companies which continued after court orders restraining asset stripping were made in summer 2011, the bank claims.

The Quinns had accepted they owed the bank some €455 million but were claiming the result of an asset-stripping scheme devised by them meant none of the IPG assets could be recovered, Paul Gardiner SC, for Irish Bank Resolution Corporation, formerly Anglo, said.

The bank did not accept this, and new material salvaged from a damaged computer hard drive in Russia showed the Quinns continued asset-stripping at the same time that Seán Quinn snr his son Seán jnr and nephew Peter Darragh Quinn were before the High Court for alleged contempt of orders restraining asset-stripping measures, he said..

The new evidence also showed some of the Quinns were handling monies from IPG companies, including multi-milion rents which they said they knew nothing about, at the same time the contempt proceedings were before the court, he said.

The bank does not know where all that rent money has gone and is trying to trace it in legal actions in Russia, Ukraine, Belize and Panama, Mr Gardiner added.

All of this formed part of the context in which the bank was contending the orders jailing Seán Quinn jnr for contempt of the June/July 2011 orders restraining asset stripping were justified and lawful, counsel submitted.

The evidence showed the Quinns were in control of companies that they said they knew nothing about and that monies were being transacted and removed and rents collected, he said.

Earlier today, the Supreme Court was told Seán Quinn jnr should not have been jailed on the basis of a view he was part of an overall strategy by his family to put multi-million assets beyond the reach of the former Anglo Irish Bank in contempt of court orders, the Supreme Court was told today.

It was not permissible in law to jail Seán Quinn jnr for failure to comply with 30 court orders aimed at reversing steps by the Quinn family to strip assets from their international property group, his counsel, Brian O'Moore SC, said. His client could not reverse those measures, counsel added.

Seán Quinn jnr was found in contempt of orders restraining asset-stripping on one issue alone - the making of a $500,000 payment to the general director of Quinn Properties Ukraine (QPU) - and the High Court was not entitled in law to jail him for failing to reverse other asset-stripping measures, it was also argued.

Before he could be jailed under the 30 coercive orders, Irish Bank Resolution Corporation (IBRC) had to prove every allegation of contempt in relation to other alleged asset-stripping measures covered by those coercive orders, Mr O'Moore said.

The bank had argued proving every allegation would be expensive and inconvenient and had also asked the High Court to take into account there were other court proceedings aimed at protecting IPG assets in Russia and Ukraine but such arguments provided no legal basis for jailing his client, counsel said.

Mr O'Moore also said he was not aware of any precedent for jailing his client so as to put pressure on his father to reverse the asset-stripping steps.

He was making submissions on the second day of the appeal by Seán Quinn jnr to a five-judge Supreme Court against the High Court finding he was in contempt. He is also appealing the High Court decision to jail him for failure to comply with the coercive orders.

Quinn jnr, who has been detained in the Training Unit of Mountjoy Prison since July 20th last, has been permitted leave there to attend the appeal and was again in court today with wife Karen Woods and brother-in-law, Niall McPartland.

He contends he was not in contempt of the High Court orders of June and July 2011 and, even if he was, it was disproportionate to jail him in the context of the court's limited findings of contempt in his case.

Last June, Ms Justice Elizabeth Dunne made the one finding of contempt against Quinn jnr and made additional findings of contempt against Seán Quinn snr and his nephew, Peter Darragh Quinn. The judge found contempt against Quinn jnr via his participation in a $500,000 payment to the general director of QPU, Larissa Puga, on the eve of the takeover of that company by IBRC.

She made the jailing orders on July 20th after finding all three failed to adequately comply with some 30 coercive orders aimed at unwinding the asset-stripping scheme.

She indicated she was sending Quinn jnr and Peter Darragh Quinn to jail for three months but, if the coercive orders were still not complied with, they might remain there indefinitely.

The judge said she would not jail Seán Quinn snr at this stage because she wanted him to be available to assist IBRC in its efforts to protect the IPG assets. When

Peter Darragh Quinn did not turn up on July 20th, a warrant was issued for his arrest which remains unexecuted as he continues to live at his home across the Border in Co Fermanagh.

In his appeal, Quinn jnr argues there was no evidence on which the High Court could have concluded he participated in the payment to Ms Puga. IBRC had failed to advance a reason why he would do so, he contends.

IBRC wants the Supreme Court consider material an administrator appointed by it recently salvaged from the damaged hard drive of a computer operated by a Russian company in the IPG.

That material, the bank claims, shows the Quinns had employment contracts with various Russian companies providing for multi-million termination of employment payments for various members of the family, including €36 million each for Aoife, Ciara and Colette Quinn, €15 million for Seán Quinn jnr and €36 million for his wife.

Some of those contracts were backdated to make it appear they were signed before the court orders restraining asset-stripping, the bank claims.

IBRC claims this and other new evidence shows Seán Quinn jnr was a "key decision maker" in relation to management and control of Russian and other international companies at the centre of alleged asset-stripping measures.

Had this material been before the High Court in the contempt hearing, it would have had an important influence on the court, the bank claims. The material also includes a video recording of a meeting in Kiev on July 21st 2012 which, the bank claims, showed Seán Quinn jnr was involved in an asset-stripping scheme in the Ukraine.