High Court judge rejects Sean Quinn trust application

A list of 35 individuals and companies have been identified as contributing to fund

The trust has paid out nearly €1.7 million towards the cost of the Quinn family’s litigation and associated fees in the Republic

The trust has paid out nearly €1.7 million towards the cost of the Quinn family’s litigation and associated fees in the Republic

 

Donations to a trust set up to pay former billionaire Sean Quinn’s legal bills did not come out of his family’s assets, the High Court ruled on Friday.

A judge also refused to grant a declaration that the funding for the Fermanagh-born businessman was not a proper arrangement.

Sir Paul Girvan said: “The monies in question were kept out of the hands of the Quinns who could not call for them to be paid over to them.”

Once Ireland’s richest man, Sean Quinn lost control of his business empire when it collapsed six years ago.

Receiver Declan Taite was subsequently appointed by IBRC, formerly known as Anglo Irish Bank, to locate and collect any assets.

In proceedings issued in Belfast, he wanted the court to draw an inference that Quinn money was being paid into the Erne Group Trust.

With the family starved of financial resources for litigation in the Republic, supporters formed the trust in 2012 to help pay their legal costs.

A list of 35 individuals and companies have been identified as having contributed funds. The trust has paid out nearly €1.7 million towards the cost of the Quinn family’s litigation and associated fees in the Republic.

Although contributors remain publicly confidential, the scale of their donations was disclosed.

One gave €400,000 while another paid in €300,000. Sixteen of them provided between €125,000 and €150,000, or equivalent amounts in sterling. One married couple contributed €115,000 and £25,000. Another donor was described as a company with strong commercial links to the former Quinn Group.

Two charities – The Northern Ireland Hospice and Marie Curie Cancer Care – received £1,000 each from the trust.

Mr Taite went to court in an attempt to clarify the situation surrounding the Erne Group. But Sir Paul held that business links was not enough to advance the receiver’s case.

“The evidence adduced... is not sufficient to give rise to a prima facie case that the funds which they donated came out of Quinn assets,” he said.

The judge further rejected a claim that the money put into the trust came under the receiver’s control.

Donors were passing legal title to the sums contributed to trustees, rather than the family, he held.

“The Quinns could not control the use of the funds,” Sir Paul said. “Even if on occasions the Quinns expressed views or opinions about the legal fees being claimed, they were not on control of the possession of the trust fund...”

Dismissing the application, he said: “Since the receivers have no claim over the assets and are strangers to the trust with no legitimate legal or beneficial interest in the assets they are not entitled to a declaration that this was not a proper trust.”