Quinn gets nine weeks for contempt of court

 

Dublin, Ireland

Bankrupt Irish businessman Sean Quinn, once the country's richest man, was sentenced Friday to nine weeks in jail by a Dublin court.

Judge Elizabeth Dunne made the ruling in Dublin after a contempt-of-court hearing related to efforts to move some of his family's property beyond the grasp of Irish Bank Resolution Corp., formerly known as Anglo Irish Bank Corp. Quinn was scheduled to begin serving his sentence Friday while pursuing an appeal, said his lawyer, Eugene Grant.

"It is not disputed that significant assets worth millions of euros have been put beyond the reach of the bank," the judge said. Moving the assets is "nothing short of outrageous — it is a serious contempt of court."

The jailing caps the downfall of the former cement-to- insurance empire tycoon, whose demise mirrors the collapse in the country's property boom that pushed the country to the brink of bankruptcy. Quinn was declared bankrupt in January, two months after a court ruled Quinn owed IBRC 2.16 billion euros ($2.78 billion). Quinn was worth about $6 billion in 2008, according to Forbes magazine.

Quinn gave his backing to efforts to place assets outside the reach of nationalized IBRC, Dunne said Friday, a matter for which she found him, his son, who is also named Sean, and his nephew Peter Darragh Quinn in contempt in June. Dunne said she had no choice but to sentence the elder Quinn to prison, even after taking his charitable work and medical condition into account.

Quinn said he wanted to "get on" with his prison term before being taken into custody.

"I did stupid things," Quinn told reporters, saying that IBRC "took my companies, my reputation and they put me in jail."

Quinn's fortune had its origins in a sand quarrying operation he set up in 1973 on his father's farm just over the Irish Republic's border in Northern Ireland. The Quinn family still has support in the area, where his companies provided employment. National broadcaster RTE said 5,000 people turned out for a rally to support Quinn in nearby County Cavan last month.

Quinn Group said in April 2010 that the Quinn family's debts were "due primarily to equity losses of circa 3 billion euros." The losses largely stem from Quinn's investment in Anglo Irish through financial derivatives called contracts for difference.

Dunne rejected a request by Quinn to attend a christening in December. Quinn is entitled to seek compassionate leave, though that is a matter for the prison service, she said.

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