Seán Quinn’s family ordered to disclose documents

Receivers argue there were “question marks” over the integrity of categorisation of documents

The family of bankrupt businessman Seán Quinn have been ordered to disclose thousands of documents

The family of bankrupt businessman Seán Quinn have been ordered to disclose thousands of documents

 

A High Court judge has made orders requiring members of bankrupt businessman Seán Quinn’s family to disclose thousands of documents to a team appointed by a receiver for a decision whether those documents are relevant to the Quinns’ assets and tax affairs.

Cian Ferriter SC, for receiver Declan Taite, sought the orders after arguing there were “question marks” over the integrity of the categorisation of documents by the Quinns.

Mr Taite, whose appointment was sought by Irish Bank Resolution Corporation (IBRC), had sought all documents relevant to the Quinns’ personal finances and tax affairs for the long-running proceedings in which the bank alleges a conspiracy to strip assets from the family’s international property group (IPG).

Mr Justice Brian McGovern ruled he had jurisdiction to make orders entitling the receiver and four of his staff, plus a team of 10 from his lawyers Arthur Cox, inspect more than 100,000 documents which the Quinns had categorised as not relevant.

It appeared there had been “no meaningful attempt” by the Quinns to engage with the process of discovery and inspection and he was satisfied they were trying to slow down that process via “the legal equivalent of a work to rule”, the judge said.

There was “a clear public interest” in ensuring this litigation was advanced as the issues involved were “of immense importance and seriousness”, he said.

Mr Taite had queried the family’s claim that more than 100,000 documents downloaded from their personal phones, computers and other devices were not relevant.

The existing agreed inspection arrangement, involving only Mr Taite himself being permitted to personally examine material on a screen in the presence of members of the Quinn family, was neither practical nor workable, Mr Ferriter said.

Mr Taite had inspected some 5,000 documents under this arrangement and was concerned about the Quinn’s claim up to 126,000 documents were not relevant, he said. When queries were raised about 75 particular documents, the Quinns recently agreed, without prejudice to their arguments, to disclose 73 of those, the court heard.

Mr Taite’s concern about the slow discovery process must be considered in the context of a “massive asset-stripping scheme” which another judge previously described as “reeking of dishonesty and sharp practice”, Mr Ferriter said. Evidence of bogus salaries being stripped out of companies and the Quinns “feathering their nests” was the context to be considered.

The Quinns previously expressed concerns they did not want their “greatest enemy” – IBRC – to have access to photos and other personal material from their devices but matters had moved on from that and the Quinns have “clearly mischaracterised” documents, he said. Irrelevant material would not be handed over to the bank, he added.

The Quinns appeared to be contending material directly relating to assets, including properties in India, were privileged and did not have to be disclosed to his clients, counsel said. That material included an email from Colette Quinn referring to an account held in the name of one of her nieces which appeared to be linked to an Indian company, he said.

Charlotte Simpson, for the Quinns, argued it was not unreasonable some 100,000 documents from personal devices of her clients would not be related to their financial or tax affairs.

The court had no jurisdiction to make the inspection order sought when the sides had previously agreed a compromise before the Supreme Court of the Quinns' appeal against a High Court November 2012 order concerning the treatment of material downloaded from their personal devices, counsel submitted.

Her side denied the existing process is unworkable and had attended every meeting with the receiver, counsel said. Her side had handed over 73 of 75 documents sought but nothing should be read into that handover “except a desire to progress matters”.