‘Almost certain’ Sean Quinn family behind €10m asset-stripping of company, says judge
‘Elaborate scheme’ used despite court orders prohibiting such actions
The State-owned Irish Bank Resolution Corporation, in special liquidation, is pursuing Sean Quinn snr. Photograph: Collins
It is “almost certain” that the family of the former billionaire Sean Quinn were behind an elaborate scheme used to extract $12.5 million (€10.18 million) from a company in India, the High Court has said.
Mr Justice Robert Haughton, in the course of the judgment, said that Willam Smit, of Senat Legal Consultancy, Dubai, was part of the “elaborate scheme” designed to asset-strip the Indian company, despite knowing that the Irish courts had issued orders prohibiting such transactions.
He also found that Mr Smit” “knew well” what the effect of what he was doing would be, that he consciously helped members of the Quinn family by doing so, and that that he did this “for reward”.
Mr Smit had made sworn affidavits that were considered by the court but, after certain matters arose on day one of the proceedings, he was not available for consultations with his Irish legal team. They subsequently applied to come off record.
The ruling by Mr Justice Haughton was made in the so-called “conspiracy case” where the State-owned Irish Bank Resolution Corporation (IBRC), in special liquidation, is pursuing Sean Quinn snr, Sean Quinn jnr, Ciara, Colette, Brenda and Aoife Quinn, as well as Stephen Kelly, Peter Darragh Quinn, Niall McPartland and a number of legal entities, including Senat. The ruling was made last month but has not been previously reported.
The bank is alleging a conspiracy to place valuable international properties worth hundreds of millions of euro beyond the reach of the IBRC. The case was initiated in 2011 and is ongoing.
The ruling by Mr Justice Haughton is pending the full hearing of a matter. It is not anticipated that the case will come to a full hearing for some time.
The hearings last month involved a business park, Q City, in Hyderabad, India, that was part of the international portfolio of properties put in place by the former billionaire prior to the collapse of his business empire.
Mr Smit is a director of Dubai company Mecon, which owns shares in Indian company Mack Soft, which, in turn, owns Q City. In January, the High Court appointed a receiver over the Mack Soft shares, on the application of the IBRC liquidators.
The court heard that Q City has generated rent of at least $36 million since 2011. In June of that year, Mecon got shares in Mack Soft for $90,000, giving the Dubai company control of the Indian one.
The IBRC claimed that, since then, $15 million at least has been extracted from Mack Soft by way of bogus software contracts and fee payments and that further asset stripping is expected.
New evidence supporting the IBRC claim was discovered in Hong Kong in 2017, following the securing of an order there against a company called Orient Guide Investments.
The bogus software deals resulted in $12.5 million going from Mack Soft to Orient in Hong Kong and from there to a company associated with Senat in Dubai called Isaad FZE, the court was told. It is likely that the funds have since been transferred on to some other entity, the court noted.
An insolvency practitioner found no evidence of Mack Soft receiving any software “less still software that might have cost $12.5 million”.
Mr Justice Haughton noted that Mr Smit, in an affidavit, had said Orient was a company requested by a client of Senat, but did not name the client.
“I am satisfied that, having considered all of the evidence before the court, that the probability, indeed almost certainty, is that the client was the Quinn family,” Mr Justice Haughton said.