Judge reserves decision on payment of Quinn family expenses
Receivers say living expenses should be paid out of their accounts under family control before tapping accounts frozen four years ago
Niall McPartland with members of the Quinn family at the Commercial Court, Dublin at an earlier hearing. Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins
Receivers appointed over the assets of members of businessman Sean Quinn’s family say their living expenses should first be paid out of their personal accounts before any expenses are paid out of accounts frozen four years ago.
Lawyers for the Quinns said the receivers’ Commercial Court application is a “punitive” attempt to stop them getting on with their lives when they have been waiting years for legal proceedings to be heard.
The receivers claim the situation has changed in that most of the family members concerned are now working for a company, which was being run by two of their cousins, while one member, Ciara Quinn, works as an agency nurse.
The receivers also claim Sean Quinn senior was a director of that same company for a time.
The Quinns claim the court application by the receivers to stop them getting any further living expenses from frozen accounts is an attempt to punish them when, they say, the only purpose of freezing orders is to prevent dissipation of assets pending trial.
Mr Justice Brian McGovern reserved judgment on the application by receivers Declan Taite and Sharon Barrett, appointed in 2012 by Irish Bank Resolution Corporation (IBRC) over assets linked to Quinn companies.
The freezing orders were obtained as part of the long-running proceedings alleging various Quinn family members and others were involved in a conspiracy to strip some €500 million assets from Quinn companies to put them beyond the reach of IBRC, owed €455 million arising from loans made by the former Anglo Irish Bank.
The IBRC action was initiated in 2011 but, as a result of various criminal proceedings involving former Anglo personnel, is unlikely to he heard until 2018.
On Monday, Andrew Fitzpatrick BL, for the receivers, said the purpose of the 2012 order freezing the accounts was to preserve assets pending hearing of the IBRC proceedings.
The court later varied that order to allow for payment of living expenses to the relevant Quinn family members, he said.
A further variation allowed them them set up personal accounts into which compensation payments for their dismissals from Quinn companies were paid. Those accounts were excluded from the receivers’ control.
The receivers claim, since then, the situation has fundamentally changed most of the relevant family members, except Ciara Quinn, took up employment last year with a company, SMC Products. The salaries from that company were paid into the frozen accounts.
Mr Fitzpatrick’s clients now want the expenses to be paid from the SMC salaries and say the Quinns should apply to the court for that. The expenses should not be also paid from the personal accounts excluded from payment of monthly expenses. There were “significant balances” in these excluded personal accounts, counsel said.
Alternatively, the personal accounts would remain outside the receivers’ control but the expenses would be paid from those accounts. If there was a shortfall, they could apply to the receiver to get more money from the frozen accounts.
Mr Fitzpatrick said “neither of those options were accepted” by the Quinns.
Ross Aylward Bl, for the Quinns, said the receivers’ application was fundamentally flawed and was an attempt to change a structure already put in place by the court.
Freezing orders are meant to be preventive, not punitive, and this was an attempt to prevent the Quinns getting on with their lives in circumstances where they are not responsible for it taking so long for the main case to be heard, he said.
Certain payments to Colette and Brenda Quinn had previously been excluded from the freezing orders because it was recognised these had nothing to do with the dispute between IBRC and the Quinns, he said. Karen Woods, wife of Sean Quinn junior, had also had a shareholding in a company excluded.
Members of the Quinn family had growing families of their own and it is punitive to prevent them getting on with their lives, counsel said.