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.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Account Manager

£30 - 38k (DOE): Guru Careers: We are seeking a digitally focussed Account Man...

Recruitment Genius: Legal Secretary - Family Law

£21000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A growing professional legal pr...

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer - Java

£24000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This exciting and disruptive co...

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer - PHP / MySQL / HTML / CSS

£23000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Due to expansion, this digital ...

Day In a Page

A groundbreaking study of 'Britain's Atlantis' long buried at the bottom of the North Sea could revolutionise how we see our prehistoric past

Britain's Atlantis

Scientific study beneath North Sea could revolutionise how we see the past
The Queen has 'done and said nothing that anybody will remember,' says Starkey

The Queen has 'done and said nothing that anybody will remember'

David Starkey's assessment
Oliver Sacks said his life has been 'an enormous privilege and adventure'

'An enormous privilege and adventure'

Oliver Sacks writing about his life
'Gibraltar is British, and it is going to stay British forever'

'Gibraltar is British, and it is going to stay British forever'

The Rock's Chief Minister hits back at Spanish government's 'lies'
Britain is still addicted to 'dirty coal'

Britain still addicted to 'dirty' coal

Biggest energy suppliers are more dependent on fossil fuel than a decade ago
Orthorexia nervosa: How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition

Orthorexia nervosa

How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition
Lady Chatterley is not obscene, says TV director

Lady Chatterley’s Lover

Director Jed Mercurio on why DH Lawrence's novel 'is not an obscene story'
Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests

Set a pest to catch a pest

Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests
Mexico: A culture that celebrates darkness as an essential part of life

The dark side of Mexico

A culture that celebrates darkness as an essential part of life
Being sexually assaulted was not your fault, Chrissie Hynde. Don't tell other victims it was theirs

Being sexually assaulted was not your fault, Chrissie Hynde

Please don't tell other victims it was theirs
A nap a day could save your life - and here's why

A nap a day could save your life

A midday nap is 'associated with reduced blood pressure'
If men are so obsessed by sex, why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?

If men are so obsessed by sex...

...why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?
The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3

Jon Thoday and Richard Allen-Turner

The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3
The bathing machine is back... but with a difference

Rolling in the deep

The bathing machine is back but with a difference
Part-privatised tests, new age limits, driverless cars: Tories plot motoring revolution

Conservatives plot a motoring revolution

Draft report reveals biggest reform to regulations since driving test introduced in 1935