Quinn 'has only himself to blame' as he begins nine-week jail term
on 02/11/2012 13:17:04
The bankrupt businessman opted to go straight to prison for his "outrageous" contempt and for failing to untangle a scheme that put the family's €500m international property empire beyond the reach of the former Anglo Irish Bank.
The 66-year-old, who could have remained free until his Supreme Court appeal, was flanked by supporters in the High Court in Dublin, which was packed with barristers, onlookers and media.
Ms Justice Elizabeth Dunne told Quinn he had committed a serious contempt of court which had been nothing short of outrageous, he had been evasive and uncooperative during the hearing, and his evidence was not credible.
The judge acknowledged the proceedings had negatively consumed his and his family's life.
"In my view, he has only himself to blame," she added.
The resigned-looking former cement, insurance and property tycoon cried as he held a crumpled tissue in his hand, looking straight ahead with his bloodshot eyes.
Barristers for Quinn, who will be freed on January 4, appealed for compassionate leave to attend a granddaughter's christening on December 22 - but the judge said that was a decision for the Prison Service.
Quinn Snr owes Anglo €2.8bn after running up unprecedented losses through secret stock investments in the bank as its share price collapsed.
The family admit they owe just €455m but have refused the claims on the rest and have taken a counter-case again the bank, rebranded the IBRC (Irish Bank Resolution Corporation), over a loans deal.
Breaking court rules, Quinn took the unprecedented step of making a dramatic statement at the back of the court to journalists before a Garda finally moved in and took him away.
He called for investigations into why a receiver was ever appointed to his beloved Quinn Group, which he built from scratch from a IR£100 loan, and apologised to the Irish public for shifting assets and not taking the legal route against the bailed-out lender.
"We didn't do it well, we made lots of mistakes," he said.
"If you're saying to me: 'Are we white? am I white?', absolutely no way.
"For 64 of my 66 years I made very little mistakes. I ran my business very very well.
"Did I make mistakes in the last two years? Did my family make mistakes in the last two years? Yes, I did.
"Do I apologise here now in public for that? Yes, I do.
"Is it small fry compared to the overall assault that has been launched on us and taking over our companies and destroying them? It's an absolute disaster."
The contempt centres on a High Court order made in June and July 2011 which told Quinn, his son, Sean Quinn Junior, and nephew, Peter Darragh Quinn, not to act to put assets in their international property group (IPG) beyond the reach of the former Anglo.
Quinn Jnr was freed from Mountjoy Prison's training unit two weeks ago after serving three months for one count of contempt.
His cousin Peter - son of former GAA president Peter Quinn - remains at large since a similar sentence was imposed in July, but both father and son could face jail again if they continue to defy court orders.
Judge Dunne said Quinn Snr gave his backing to the scheme and found him guilty of breaching court orders in that he deliberately backdated his signature on documents to before the court orders were made, and that was involved in the "Puga payment" of $500,000 to an employee in the Ukraine.
She again rejected his evidence that he played no hand, act or part in the scheme, which the family have admitted they cannot untangle.
Judge Dunne also noted there was a "degree of contradiction" in Quinn's stance that he still did not accept that he was in contempt of court, but had indicated he was attempting to and committed to purging it.
"There is no doubt that the bank has had to engage in extensive litigation in multiple jurisdictions in its efforts to recover the assets," she continued.
"Unfortunately, the overall position is that, despite the efforts of the bank to date, that have not succeeded."
Judge Dunne said she was taking into account Quinn's bad health, his good character before this case, how his enterprise became the one of the largest in the country, his close links with the GAA and his charity work, but warned that his contempt involved serious conduct and mandated a term of imprisonment.
"It is important to ensure that orders of the court are complied with and that the integrity of the court system is not set at naught by an egregious breach of a court order."
In her original ruling on the contempt, Judge Dunne said the three Quinn men consciously defied and misled the courts as they shifted family assets as far afield as Ukraine, Russia and Belize and put the punitive element of Quinn Snr's sentencing for contempt was on hold to see what measures he takes to recover assets.
Barristers for Quinn yesterday claimed he was committed to purging his contempt and made an "impassioned plea" for him to remain a free man given his serious health conditions and his attempts to assist the bank.
But IBRC told the judge that Quinn had not reversed the asset-stripping scheme he sanctioned, and that the bank has continued to encounter fraudulent activity and delays orchestrated by the family to prevent the recovering of assets in Russia, Ukraine and India.
IBRC will also tell the judge next week if it wants Quinn Jnr to take any further steps to reverse the asset-stripping scheme.