A Ukrainian lawyer and an economist acted in contempt of court by defying a prohibition on the disposal of eastern European property linked to bankrupt ex-billionaire Seán Quinn, a judge in Belfast ruled today.
Oleksandr Serpokrylov and Dmytro Zaitsev could now face imprisonment for flouting the prohibition over a $45m shopping centre in Kiev.
Mr Justice McCloskey held that the two men - as representatives of a mysterious offshore company - ignored, frustrated and jeopardised an injunction against any transfer of debts surrounding the mall.
He said: "The defiance of Mr Zaitsev and Mr Serpokrylov of this court's order is correctly described, dispassionately and without hyperbole or literary flourish, as flagrant.
"In the context in which it occurred, their disobedience of this court's order could scarcely have been more blatant."
The judge will now decide their punishment at a further hearing to take place within the next 21 days.
Lawyers for the Irish Bank Resolution Corporation issued contempt proceedings against the two men, and the British Virgin Islands-registered Lyndhurst Development Trading SA, for allegedly flouting an injunction imposed at the Northern Ireland High Court in December 2011.
IBRC, the former Anglo Irish Bank, has been seeking control of Mr Quinn's international empire in an attempt to recoup more than €2bn.
As part of the wider legal battle Lyndhurst Development Trading was prohibited from enforcing any loan agreement.
It was alleged that later the same day the injunction was ignored at a hearing in Kiev.
Lyndhurst secured judgment from the Ukrainian court that it was entitled to enforce a $45m debt against the firm which owns the mall, Univermag.
Mr Justice McCloskey has already found that the property debt was transferred from one of Mr Quinn's companies to put it beyond the reach of IBRC.
All disputed transactions were declared null and void, with control returned to the former Anglo Irish Bank.
A chain of assignments scrutinised in the case set out how Fermanagh-based firm Demesne Investments, of which Mr Quinn is a former director, had been owed $45m by Univermag.
But in April 2011 Demesne transferred its rights to the debt to Innishmore Consultancy, another Northern Ireland company run by Mr Quinn's nephew Peter Quinn.
From there the loan was moved on to Lyndhurst last October.
Lawyers for IBRC argued that the assignment was a sham; part of an asset-stripping exercise carried out at a massive undervalue and not worth the paper it was written on.
Despite securing judgment, they have pressed ahead with contempt of court proceedings against Lyndhurst, Mr Serpokrylov, a lawyer, and Mr Zaitsez, an economist.
The two men appeared before the High Court by video-link from Kiev to defend the action.
Mr Justice McCloskey was scathing in his assessment of their evidence.
"They were hesitant, reluctant, evasive and unspontaneous," he said.
"I reject the centrepiece of their case, which was that they doubted the authenticity of this court's order, as intrinsically lacking in veracity and devoid of objective confirmation."
Referring back to the breach of the injunction, he added: "Their stance was one of intransigent and implacable opposition, based on every technical objection they could muster.
"For reasons which have not been divulged to this court, both were grimly determined to procure judgment for $45m for their client, Lyndhurst, against Univermag."
His finding leaves open the possibility of sequestration orders, fines or even prison sentences being imposed.
With both men remaining in the Ukraine, any such outcome is unlikely to be enforceable while they remain outside the European Union.
Their lawyer argued that it would be inappropriate to make a contempt ruling since there was no clear way of enforcing any penalty.
However, Mr Justice McCloskey stressed that their conduct was aimed at frustrating attempts to preserve a highly valuable asset in a foreign jurisdiction pending the final outcome of legal proceedings.
Declining to find them in contempt would send out the wrong message, encourage similar breaches and potentially lead to the unlawful disappearance or dissipation of other assets around the world, he pointed out.
The judge confirmed: "I am satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that all three respondents are guilty of the contempt alleged.
"The question of punishment will be decided at a future hearing, which will be conducted during the next 21 days."