Sean Quinn: Former billionaire remains a local hero

He was once Ireland's richest man. But now Sean Quinn is bankrupt, under siege from the Irish government – and an unlikely local hero

Not long ago he was Ireland's richest man, with a personal fortune of billions, a fabulous international property portfolio and a private jet complete with gold bathroom fixtures. But those days have gone: Sean Quinn – once known as the Mighty Quinn – is now bankrupt and embroiled in complex legal battles to preserve remnants of his once immense empire.

His nephew Peter Darragh Quinn, facing a prison sentence over his role in the financial fallout, has fled to Northern Ireland. Beyond the reach of the southern civil courts, he has taunted the authorities with public appearances at Gaelic sports fixtures, apparently unconcerned about being photographed in the stands.

His uncle Sean was one of the most spectacular casualties of the Republic of Ireland's economic collapse, losing billions in the financial fiasco.

Yet despite his troubles, and the many allegations made against him, the 65-year-old entrepreneur remains a local hero in his native border area of Fermanagh and Cavan.

Starting from a small-scale gravel business, he expanded into cement, healthcare, hotels and shopping centres, and built up a huge insurance concern. He and his family are credited with providing thousands of jobs in a generally neglected area, with thousands turning out at a recent rally in support of him.

A woman at the demonstration explained: "The area would be nothing without that family. There would be no employment here if it were not for them."

The initial story of his life was one of a self-made man who, in accumulating fabulous riches, never forgot his humble origins, looking after his workforce and always ready to contribute to local causes.

The new Quinn narrative, however, is very different. He admits that some of his financial troubles are due to his own mistakes, but maintains the authorities are pursuing a vendetta against his family, with his son in jail in Dublin. Sean Quinn himself may face prison if he does not co-operate with the courts.

He blames the Dublin government and the Irish Bank Resolution Corporation, set up to deal with the affairs of the toxic Anglo-Irish bank which cost the Irish taxpayer billions. He lost a large part of his fortune in extraordinarily rash dealings with Anglo.

The IBRC is tasked with tracing half a billion euros of missing cash which it suspects is stashed in a network of secret offshore accounts in locations which include Moscow, Belize, Switzerland, Kiev and the Virgin Islands. The state-owned IBRC has repeatedly taken Quinn to court as it seeks to retrieve the money on behalf of the taxpayer.

His response is to counterattack, declaring: "Mistakes in business should not result in a life sentence. They are doing everything in their power to destroy us and they've done a damn good job of it."

Accused of being obstructive and unco-operative, he choked back tears as he told a court he is acting with honour and integrity.

The courts do not believe him. One judge, Ms Justice Dunne, concluded that the conduct of Quinn, his son and his nephew was "as far removed from the concept of honour and respectability as it is possible to be".

They were evasive and unco-operative, she charged, and had acted in a blatant, dishonest and deceitful manner.

Another judge found the family had put in place a devious system "of mesmeric complexity reeking of dishonesty and sharp practice designed to feather the Quinns' own nest".

A judge in Belfast reached similar conclusions, declaring that the Quinns' behaviour "smacks irresistibly of an orchestrated, elaborate and illicit charade".

Last month, the Dublin High Court sentenced Quinn's son Sean Jnr and his nephew Peter Darragh Quinn to 90 days in prison for their contempt of previous orders instructing them to desist from moving overseas assets beyond the reach of the IBRC.

Sean Jnr is currently held in a low-security unit but Peter Darragh Quinn has fled the Republic

A warrant has been issued for his arrest in the south, but no attempt has been to arrest him in the north. It is reported he may be safe from extradition since the matter is civil rather than criminal. Sean Quinn himself was not jailed, apparently in the hope he would change his stance.

A lawyer acting for him said it was wrong to lock up one member of the family in the hope another would act, protesting against "this almost medieval approach of holding the son to see what the chieftain father will do".

The judge responded that this was a practical way of trying to encourage compliance with orders.

Other legal proceedings are on-going, such as lawsuits the IBRC has filed in Cyprus, the Ukraine, Sweden and elsewhere to prevent the Quinns moving assets around. The legal saga will go on for years.

There is clearly support and sympathy for the family in Fermanagh and Cavan, Quinn country, where there is a fervent hope that jobs they created can be preserved.

Elsewhere in Ireland, however, this is balanced by the belief that at least half a billion euros of taxpayers' money is somewhere out there in the financial ether and should be recovered.

PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Life and Style
fashion David Beckham fronts adverts for his underwear collection
Extras
indybest
Travel
Flocking round: Beyoncé, Madame Tussauds' latest waxwork, looking fierce in the park
travelIn a digital age when we have more access than ever to the stars, why are waxworks still pulling in crowds?
Arts and Entertainment
Judi Dench appeared at the Hay Festival to perform excerpts from Shakespearean plays
tvJudi Dench and Hugh Bonneville join Benedict Cumberbatch in BBC Shakespeare adaptations
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Sport
Is this how Mario Balotelli will cruise into Liverpool?
football
News
Ronahi Serhat, a PKK fighter, in the Qandil Mountains in Iraqi Kurdistan
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Poet’s corner: Philip Larkin at the venetian window of his home in 1958
booksOr caring, playful man who lived for others? A new book has the answer
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Junior Quant Analyst - C++, Boost, Data Mining

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Junior Quant Analyst - C++, Boost...

Service Desk Analyst- (Desktop Support, Help desk)

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Service Desk Analyst- (Desktop Su...

Junior Quant Analyst (Machine Learning, SQL, Brokerage)

£30000 - £50000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Junior Quant Analyst (Machine Lea...

UNIX Application Support Analyst- Support, UNIX, London

£45000 - £55000 per annum: Harrington Starr: UNIX Application Support Analyst-...

Day In a Page

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

The President came the nearest he has come yet to rivalling George W Bush’s gormless reaction to 9/11 , says Robert Fisk
Ebola outbreak: Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on the virus

Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on Ebola

A Christian charity’s efforts to save missionaries trapped in Africa by the crisis have been justifiably praised. But doubts remain about its evangelical motives
Jeremy Clarkson 'does not see a problem' with his racist language on Top Gear, says BBC

Not even Jeremy Clarkson is bigger than the BBC, says TV boss

Corporation’s head of television confirms ‘Top Gear’ host was warned about racist language
Nick Clegg the movie: Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise

Nick Clegg the movie

Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise
Philip Larkin: Misogynist, racist, miserable? Or caring, playful man who lived for others?

Philip Larkin: What will survive of him?

Larkin's reputation has taken a knocking. But a new book by James Booth argues that the poet was affectionate, witty, entertaining and kind, as hitherto unseen letters, sketches and 'selfies' reveal
Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?

Waxing lyrical

Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?
Texas forensic astronomer finally pinpoints the exact birth of impressionism

Revealed (to the minute)

The precise time when impressionism was born
From slow-roasted to sugar-cured: how to make the most of the British tomato season

Make the most of British tomatoes

The British crop is at its tastiest and most abundant. Sudi Pigott shares her favourite recipes
10 best men's skincare products

Face it: 10 best men's skincare products

Oscar Quine cleanses, tones and moisturises to find skin-savers blokes will be proud to display on the bathroom shelf
Malky Mackay allegations: Malky Mackay, Iain Moody and another grim day for English football

Mackay, Moody and another grim day for English football

The latest shocking claims do nothing to dispel the image that some in the game on these shores exist in a time warp, laments Sam Wallace
La Liga analysis: Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

Pete Jenson starts his preview of the Spanish season, which begins on Saturday, by explaining how Fifa’s transfer ban will affect the Catalans
Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape