Trust formed to pay legal bills for ‘very decent’ Seán Quinn
Businessman who raised £200,000 expected only to receive a ‘present’ for his troubles
Seán Quinn: A list of 34 individuals and companies contributed funds to a trust, which paid more than £1.1 million towards the cost of the Quinn family’s legal cases. Photograph: Dara Mac Donaill
A trust set up to pay former billionaire Seán Quinn’s legal bills was to be a temporary arrangement amid efforts to secure major overseas hedge fund investment, the High Court heard today.
One of those involved in raising cash for the Fermanagh-born businessman said he was told of attempts to secure financing from the US and England in return for a percentage of any payout from successful litigation in Dublin.
It was also claimed that supporters making private donations would have expected to receive back nothing more than a potential “present”.
Details emerged during ongoing proceedings brought in Belfast by a receiver attempting to identify any assets belonging to Mr Quinn.
Once Ireland’s richest man, Mr Quinn lost control of his business empire when it collapsed six years ago. Receiver Declan Taite was subsequently appointed by IBRC (formerly Anglo Irish Bank) to locate and collect any assets.
A list of 34 individuals and companies are identified as having contributed funds to the Erne Group Trust. The trust, set up in 2012, paid more than £1.1 million (€1.3million) towards the cost of the Quinn family’s legal cases and associated fees in the Republic, the court heard.
Two named charities also received payments of £1,000 each as part of the arrangements.
Although the donors remain confidential to the general public, an order was previously made for their names and amounts contributed to be disclosed to the receiver. It was previously alleged that some of them have clear connections to the Quinn family.
One businessman who helped raise funds for the Dublin litigation told the court on Tuesday that he was responsible for securing some £200,000. During cross-examination by counsel for the receiver, Stephen Shaw QC, he said the trust was originally intended to run for up to two months while efforts continued to secure other financing.
Seán Quinn jnr had discussed attempts to obtain backing from hedge funds, Lord Justice Girvan was told.
Mr Shaw put it to the businessman: “The understanding from Mr Quinn was that some significant people from outside the country were going to come in and look after the expenses in return for a share. The expectation was that the Quinns would succeed and therefore it was commercially sensible to invest in this litigation.”
The witness replied: “At no time, until recent times, did I ever believe Seán Quinn wouldn’t win the case.”
No legal entitlements
He stressed that those who made loans to the trust did so without any legal entitlement to getting their money back. “The only thing in the back of their mind was when this case was won . . . Seán Quinn is a very decent man and when he wins, he will give us a present.”
Asked if he was happy with the amount paid out to the charities, he said they were only involved to ensure the trust arrangement was legal.
“It didn’t matter whether we gave them £1,000, £500 or £10,000,” the witness added. “The principal thing about it was to pay the lawyers for Seán Quinn.”
The case continues.