FOUR out of five Supreme Court judges today agreed the High Court was entitled to conclude there was “outrageous” contempt by Sean Quinn Jnr of court orders restraining stripping of assets form the Quinn’s international property group (IPG).
There was “ample” evidence to justify the High Court finding “beyond reasonable doubt” that Sean Quinn Jnr was involved in a US$500,000 payment to a Ukrainian woman, Larissa Puga, in contempt of those same orders, and it was entitled to jail him for three months concerning that transaction, Mr Justice Nial Fennelly said when giving the majority 4/1 judgment today.
Dissenting, Mr Justice Adrian Hardiman said there was no direct evidence to support the finding of contempt against Quinn Jnr and “no legally recognisable basis” for granting a request by Irish Bank Resolution Corporation to jail him so as to put pressure on his father to reverse asset-stripping measures.
The proceedings in the High Court leading to Quinn Jnr being jailed were in the nature of “a summary criminal trial conducted by a judge sitting alone”, he said.
The High Court failed to focus on the specific case made against Quinn Jnr, as opposed to his father and cousin and was not entitled, in the absence of direct evidence of the single charge against him, to lock him up on foot of evidence of a general nature he was “up to no good”.
The legal actions between IBRC, the former Anglo Irish Bank, and the Quinn family are being fought with “extraordinary bitterness” with each side considering the other had perpetrated grave injustices against it, the judge also observed. In those actions, both sides “have questions to answer”.
All five judges agreed the High Court was not entitled to jail Qunn Jnr indefinitely in an effort to procure his compliance with some 30 coercive orders aimed at reversing a wide range of asset-stripping measures when there was no finding against him concerning those other measures. The court has set aside almost all of the coercive orders insofar as they relate to Quinn Jnr.
The court today delivered judgments outlining the reasons for its 4/1 ruling last week dismissing the appeal by Quinn Jnr against the High Court finding he acted in contempt arising from the payment to Ms Puga, general director of Quinn Properties Ukraine, on the eve of the bank’s takeover of that company.
They dismissed Quinn Jnr’s appeal against the finding he was in contempt over the Puga payment and his appeal against the imposition of three months imprisonment for that but set aside her order jailing him indefinitely for failing to comply with the terms of some 30 coercive orders.
The coercive orders were sought by the bank with a view to procuring the reversal of a wide range of measures designed to strip up to $430m assets from the Quinn’s international property group so as to put them beyond the reach of IBRC, which is pursuing the Quinn family over some €2.8bn loans.
Mr Justice Hardiman disagreed and said he would have allowed the appeal in its entirety.
Next week, Ms Justice Dunne is due to review whether Mr Quinn, his father and cousin Peter Darragh Quinn have made adequate efforts to purge their contempt. Sean Quinn Jnr was freed from Mountjoy Prison training unit last Friday on expiry of the three-month detention period.
Sean Quinn Junior has lost his Supreme Court appeal by a four to one majority against a High Court‘s decision jailing him almost three months ago for contempt of orders restraining the stripping of multi-million property assets.
The majority Sureme Court ruled today that Quinn jnr was properly jailed for a three month period which is due to expire on Friday next.
It also indicated the former Anglo Irish Bank could reapply to the High Court to jail Mr Quinn for a longer period on foot of the finding he had acted in contempt of court orders via his involvement in the making of a US$500,000 payment to the general director of Quinn Properties Ukraine.
The majority court found, while the High Court was entitled to jail Mr Quin for three months on foot of the contemot finding in relaiton to the Puga payment, it was not entitled to make some 28 coercive orders against him restraining several other asset stripping measures. His layers had argued there was no evidence that Quinn Jnr was involved in the other measures.
The Chief Justice, Ms Justice Susan Denham, Mr Justice Nial Fennelly, Mr Justice Donal O’Donnell and Mr Justice Liam McKechnie constituted the majority court while Mr Justice Adrian Hardiman dissented and said he would have allowed Quinn jnr’s appeal in its entirety.
Quinn jnr was jailed on July 20th last by Ms Justice Elizabeth Dunne following her findings he acted in contempt of court orders restraining stripping of up to $430m assets from the Quinn family’s international property group and also failed to reverse a series of asset-stripping steps.
The four day appeal hearing concluded last week and the matter was listed today for ruling in the Supreme Court. The court will give the full reasons for its decision in a written judgment later.
Lawyers for Quinn jnr applied to the Supreme Court yesterday for an order directing that he may attend court this morning for the ruling and he was in court today with his wife Karen Woods and sisters Colette and Aoife and brothers in law Niall McPartland and Stephen Kelly.
Irish Bank Resolution Corporation chief executive Mike Aynsley was also in court with Richard Woodhouse of IBRC, which is pursuing the Quinn family over loans totalling some €2.8bn.
During the appeal, Quinn jnr’s lawyers argued that IBRC, the former Anglo Irish Bank, had failed to outline exactly what he was being held in prison for and had conceded there was “no direct evidence” to support the finding of contempt against him.
The bank contended “a chain of events” and 30 pieces of circumstantial evidence supported the High Court’s “common sense” finding Mr Quinn participated in a US$500,000 payment on foot of which he was found in contempt.
Quinn jnr attended all four days of the appeal and returned to Mountjoy Prison last Wednesday when the appeal concluded.
Last June, Ms Justice Dunne ruled he was in contempt of court orders of June and July 2011 restraining stripping of assets on the basis of his participation in a US$500,000 payment to Larissa Puga, general director of Quinn Properties Ukraine, on the eve of that company’s takeover by the bank in August 2011.
The judge later made 30 coercive orders aimed at unwinding asset-stripping measures and, after finding Sean Quinn jnr, his father and cousin Peter failed to comply with those, jailed Quinn jnr and Peter Quinn but did not jail Sean Quinn snr so he could take steps to achieve compliance.
Peter Quinn did not attend court on July 20th and a warrant for his arrest remains unexecuted while he continues to live in Northern Ireland. All three Quinns said they could not reverse the asset stripping on grounds including matters had passed out of their control to Russian lawyers and others. The contept matter is due for review by Ms Justice Dunne on Friday.
THE Supreme Court has queried how the jailed son of bankrupt businessman Sean Quinn can complain about being in prison when he has not purged his contempt.
Mr Quinn Jnr was jailed last July for breaking court orders not to interfere with the family’s €500m international property group (IPG) and his lawyers claim it was wrong to subject him to the prospect of an indefinite spell in prison.
The High Court has kept his father out of jail to force Sean Quinn Snr to comply with orders to reverse asset transfers out of the IPG.
The Supreme Court noted that Mr Quinn Jnr has not yet purged his contempt, despite claims that he was being held in prison as “hostage for the chieftain”.
“How can he complain about being committed to prison?” asked Supreme Court Judge Mr Justice Donal O’Donnell.
Mr Quinn’s lawyers said that there was no precedent before the court to jail a defendant to force the hand of another.
The Supreme Court also heard that no contempt application had been moved against any other member of the Quinn family apart from the tree who have already been found guilty of contempt of court.
Today the former Anglo Irish Bank will ask the Supreme Court to admit fresh material gleaned from a damaged computer in Russia to prove Mr Quinn Jnr was a “key player” – right up until the time he was jailed last July.
The IBRC (formerly Anglo) claims the family of Sean Quinn Snr stood to receive more than €250m in severance fees from Russian companies within their international property group (IPG).
The bank, which moves its case later today, has claimed in court papers that an email of July 25, 2011, copied to Sean Quinn Jnr by his brother-in-law Stephen Kelly had requested that Russian employment contract documents for members of the Quinn family be backdated.