Quinn claims some shareholders blackmailed firm

 

BUSINESSMAN TONY Quinn claimed the oil company he is involved in was blackmailed after it failed to pay disaffected shareholders. He said the resulting negative media campaign made people lose faith in the company, International Natural Energy (INE).

Mr Quinn was continuing his evidence in a case brought against him and INE by a former director, Sheila McCaffrey, who alleges the company has been mismanaged and run to the detriment of shareholders.

INE has earned more than $750 million (€537 million) from oil wells in the Central American state of Belize since 2005, according to dissident shareholders who have never been paid a dividend. The company was founded and initially financed by people who attended Mr Quinn’s Educo mind power seminars, many of them from Ireland.

Mr Quinn told the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court that the board, at an October 2009 meeting, voted to “consolidate” its legal strategy after a very worrying and undermining series of articles appeared in the media.

He said the company was promised a 13-month negative media campaign if it didn’t pay certain sums of money to certain people.

Questioned further about his claim, he said Maire Lalor had been a good friend of his for 20 years and had attended his seminars. However, she turned against him and she and her son wanted money from him. She threatened if she didn’t get the money she would start a negative campaign.

In January 2010, Ms Lalor, from Tramore, Co Waterford, was given leave by the Irish High Court to serve a summons by post on Mr Quinn, relating to a civil damages claim.

In his evidence, Mr Quinn said that when the money wasn’t forthcoming, Ms Lalor’s son contacted him by phone in the Bahamas and said that if he didn’t pay, and persuade fellow director Susan Morrice to settle a law suit with another director, Jean Cornec, the negative campaign would start. He related this to Ms Morrice, who said it was blackmail, Mr Quinn told the court. “So we didn’t pay the money and the negative campaign started and Sheila and others joined in. It has continued to this day,” he said. Ms Lalor was not represented in court.

Mr Quinn agreed the directors of the company had indemnified themselves for the cost of legal fees but said this wasn’t unusual.

He said the negative coverage ran in the Sunday World and other media outlets. “It totally undermined the whole company. A lot of people in Ireland saw me as the face of the company and when this happened again and again people lost faith in the company.”

The court has already heard that INE spent almost $2 million (€1.59 million) in recent years on security protection for directors and surveillance operations.

Earlier, Mr Quinn told the court he has a master’s degree in science from the University of East London and a doctorate in clinical hypnotherapy from the American Institute of Hypnotherapy. Asked if he had a PhD or called himself a doctor, he replied he had a doctorate.

Frank Walwyn, lawyer for Ms McCaffrey, queried the documentation provided in support of his degrees. He said a letter Mr Quinn produced about his doctorate contained no information about the qualification and he claimed there was an absence of supporting information in relation to his master’s qualification.

Mr Quinn said he could produce further evidence in support of his qualifications if the court desired.

COURT QUESTIONS: PROPERTY PORTFOLIO

TONY QUINN told counsel he owned other houses in Malahide, on Hamhaugh Island on the Thames in London, three cottages in Arbour Hill and a small holiday cottage in Rush. He said he arrived for the court case by private jet but understood that the cost of this would not be borne by INE.

Friends lived in and looked after his houses in Malahide and London while Mary Power looked after his home, as well as his seminars, in the Bahamas. Collette Millea was his manager in Ireland. Mr Quinn said he didn’t use a computer or carry a mobile phone, though he might use one if it was handed to him. Asked if he sent e-mails, he said he preferred to talk on the phone. These were dealt with by Ms Power and Ms Millea and he wouldn’t necessarily see all communications. He didn’t keep a diary.