Seán Quinn Snr begins nine-week prison sentence over contempt of court

Friday 02 November 2012 22.03
Seán Quinn Snr was driven to Mountjoy Prison in a garda van
Seán Quinn Snr was driven to Mountjoy Prison in a garda van

Former billionaire Seán Quinn Snr has been sentenced to nine weeks in prison for contempt of court.

Quinn was driven to Mountjoy Prison in a garda van shortly before 2pm this afternoon.

Ms Justice Elizabeth Dunne said she could not ignore the extent and degree of contempt of court by Quinn.

She said his behaviour in sanctioning an asset-stripping scheme fell into the category of serious misconduct, which mandated a term of imprisonment be imposed on the party guilty of contempt.

Ms Justice Dunne said it was important to ensure that orders of the court are complied with and the integrity of the court system is not set at naught by an egregious breach of a court order.

She added that he had only himself to blame for the effect the contempt proceedings had on him.

The judge indicated she would grant a stay on the order pending an appeal to the Supreme Court.

However, after a short adjournment Quinn's barrister said he wanted to begin his sentence today.

Eugene Grant QC said he wanted to be released on 22 December for his granddaughter's christening, but the judge said this was a matter for prison authorities.

Quinn became emotional when supporters gathered around him as he left the High Court.

Speaking to reporters before he was taken to a holding cell in the Four Courts, Quinn said the media had been "led by the nose" and said many questions remained about how IBRC had conducted itself.

He said there was an obligation on IBRC, which was acting on behalf of the Government, to fight the case honourably.

Quinn said IBRC had taken all his money, his companies, his reputation and had thrown him in jail, yet it had not proven that any money was owed or that they were right to appoint a receiver to his companies.

When asked how he felt on being sent to prison over Christmas, Quinn said when you had a wife, five children and grandchildren you did not need to be asked that.

He said: "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."

He said the biggest loss-maker in the history of the State was the State itself.

Quinn's comments to the media were interrupted by a garda who placed his hand on Quinn's left arm and asked him to come with him.

Earlier, Ms Justice Dunne referred to her findings last June when she found Quinn to be evasive and uncooperative in the witness box.

She repeated today that putting assets beyond the reach of the bank was "nothing short of an outrageous contempt".

It was clear that assets worth millions had been put beyond the reach of the bank and while she acknowledged there was a serious dispute about a debt of €2.4bn, there was no dispute that the bank was owed €455m.

Last June, the judge found Quinn in contempt of court orders prohibiting interference with the Quinn's €500m International Property Group.

The case had been adjourned to allow him take steps to reverse the asset-stripping scheme.

However, IBRC said nothing had been done and no steps had been taken to unwind the scheme.

The bank said it continued to encounter fraudulent activity aimed at putting assets beyond its reach and would now have to engage a specialist in asset recovery in Russia.

Quinn's legal team had pleaded with the court not to jail him due to his age and medical condition.

The bankrupt former billionaire claims he was subjected to a grave injustice at the hands of Anglo Irish Bank and says he was fraudulently induced to buy shares just before they collapsed.