February 29, 2024

Ireland Jails Sean Quinn, Once Its Richest Man

DUBLIN (Reuters) — Ireland jailed the former billionaire Sean Quinn on Friday for failing to disclose assets he was hiding abroad, completing the fall from grace of the richest man in Ireland’s “Celtic Tiger” boom.

Mr. Quinn, whose 4 billion euro ($5.2 billion) business empire collapsed after a disastrous investment in the now failed Anglo Irish Bank, is the first major player jailed in connection with the country’s economic collapse, having come to personify its boom and bust.

He was found guilty of contempt of court in June for violating an order not to block state-owned Anglo, since renamed the Irish Bank Resolution Corporation, from seizing foreign property assets worth an estimated 500 million euros.

He was initially spared prison and ordered to disclose information regarding assets spread as far afield as Russia, Ukraine and Belize.

But Justice Elizabeth Dunne told a Dublin high court on Friday that Mr. Quinn had only himself to blame over contempt she described as “nothing short of outrageous.”

“I cannot ignore the extent and degree of contempt of court on his part; the appropriate term by reasons of noncompliance with the orders is nine weeks,” said Judge Dunne, who deemed Mr. Quinn “evasive and uncooperative” when giving evidence.

Mr. Quinn, a father of five who used to fly around Europe on his Falcon jet sealing property deals, sat in court with a tissue held to his face. His eyes bloodshot, he stared straight ahead as the sentence was handed down.

The judge said she would consider placing a stay on the jail term until a Supreme Court appeal against the contempt is heard, but Mr. Quinn opted to start his term immediately, meaning he will spend Christmas behind bars.

He had tears in his eyes as he said goodbye to supporters and family members before being led out of the court by police. He told reporters he had made mistakes but that the “whole thing is a charade.”

Mr. Quinn’s son Sean and nephew Peter, who were also found guilty of contempt, were handed three-month jail terms in July. Peter Quinn fled the jurisdiction to Northern Ireland while his cousin served a full sentence.

Ireland’s costly banking rescue helped push the country into seeking an international bailout two years ago this month. It is the subject of intense negotiations in Europe to ease the burden as Dublin tries to exit its program next year. In the country’s boom years, Mr. Quinn turned a rural quarrying operation on his family farm into a global business empire spanning wind farms, cement plants and hotels, but he became the subject of the largest Irish bankruptcy order ever just four years after becoming its richest man.

He is still regarded by some as a hero thanks to his role as a big employer in his home county of Cavan. Thousands of locals, including sports figures and politicians, have held two rallies since August to support him in the court proceedings.

Mr. Quinn’s use of loans to make the ill-fated investments in the former Anglo resulted in the failed lender pursuing him for debts of almost 3 billion euros in a global treasure hunt from courtrooms in Dublin to the British Virgin Islands.

Article source: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/11/03/business/global/ireland-jails-sean-quinn-once-its-richest-man.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

Judge Blocks a Bankruptcy in Northern Ireland

A judge in Belfast on Tuesday rejected an attempt by Sean Quinn, once considered Ireland’s richest man, to declare bankruptcy in Northern Ireland rather than in his home country, where terms are tougher.

Mr. Quinn, 65, had been accused of “bankruptcy tourism” by creditors seeking to collect almost 3 billion euros ($3.8 billion).

Mr. Quinn, whose family has owned a farm in Northern Ireland for nearly five generations, now faces the prospect of bankruptcy in the Republic of Ireland, where rules could prevent him from getting back in business for as long as 12 years, as opposed to 12 months in Northern Ireland.

The Irish Bank Resolution Corporation, formerly Anglo Irish Bank, had challenged his bankruptcy application in Northern Ireland, arguing that the real center of his interests was his home in Ballyconnell, County Cavan, near the Northern Ireland border.

The case is part of an effort to consolidate control of Mr. Quinn’s international properties and the Quinn Group, which the resolution corporation seized last April, including its headquarters in Derrylin, County Fermanagh, Northern Ireland.

Mr. Quinn’s international conglomerate of cement factories, luxury hotels, pubs and wind farms collapsed over the last two years after he placed huge bets on financial derivatives known as contracts for difference to speculate on the value of Anglo Irish shares.

The High Court judge on the case in Northern Ireland, Donal Deeny, annulled Mr. Quinn’s bankruptcy declaration Tuesday morning. In his written ruling, he raised doubts about a lease dated last May and submitted as evidence of Mr. Quinn’s long-term office base in County Fermanagh in Northern Ireland, a rental for about 60 euros ($77) a month.

The judge called it a “curious document” because it was written in legal language but not witnessed by a lawyer. He also noted that Mr. Quinn lacked a passport for Britain.

Outside the courtroom, Mr. Quinn, who grew up in the borderlands of County Fermanagh, was defiant, calling the bank’s case a sham and saying that he had never worked anyplace else.

“I worked in Derrylin six days a week, not five,” he said.

“What Anglo Irish has done to the Quinn Group is like somebody taking a sledgehammer to a child’s toy — they’ve destroyed it,” he said. “It’s wrecked.”

When asked if he had misled the court, he replied: “I’ve never misled anybody in my life. Everything I always promised, I always done.”

The Irish Bank Resolution Corporation is already pursuing a bankruptcy case against Mr. Quinn in Ireland. It is “determined to recoup its costs and to maximize recovery for the taxpayer and the state,” a statement issued after the court ruling said.

The Quinn case has raised awareness among other debtors about the prospects for seeking financial refuge in other European countries. At least three failed Irish property developers have declared bankruptcy in Britain, including Ray Grehan, who owes 312 million euros to the National Asset Management Agency, the state-owned bank created to take ownership of nonperforming loans.

Anthony Joyce, a lawyer in Dublin who advises mortgage holders with large debts, said he was surprised that Mr. Quinn had not taken the step of moving his residence to Northern Ireland. He said that could be an alternative that Mr. Quinn could pursue.

“We get calls every day from people with serious debt problems, and they are looking at this as an option,” Mr. Joyce said, noting that typically they moved to London for six months before filing for bankruptcy to take advantage of less-onerous laws.

Several other rulings are expected this month in the struggle between Mr. Quinn and Anglo Irish, which was nationalized in 2009. Besides the bankruptcy case, the bank is in litigation elsewhere to take control of property owned by the Quinn family in Russia, Ukraine and India.

A judge in Cyprus is expected to rule this month in a clash over several offshore companies claiming debts against the Quinn properties of more than 500 million euros.

Article source: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/01/11/business/global/belfast-judge-blocks-bankruptcy-in-northern-ireland.html?partner=rss&emc=rss