Ireland's Richest Man In Jail: The Collapse Of Celtic Dreams Continues.
By David Monagan.
Ireland is reeling today with the news that its richest businessman, the bankrupt former multibillionaire Sean Quinn is being sent to jail for contempt of court for neither deceasing nor fully revealing a Byzantine web of offshore asset- stripping maneuvers reaching from Russia to Belize. The Irish High Court's decision was that he continued to shift roughly 500 million euros of holdings beyond the reach of the now state-owned Anglo Irish Bank, for which he had taken a disastrous move for 28 percent control in 2007 and was left holding 455 million euros in un-repaid debt.
The case is one of what one judged termed “mesmeric complexity,” involving the furious shifting of substantial assets to daughter-in-laws, a son recently freed from jail on another contempt of court charge, and a nephew awaiting arrest should he return to the Republic of Ireland from his current residence in the North, or the United Kingdom. The prosecution of the Quinns has reawakened nationwide anguish and finger pointing about the reasons for the cataclysmic collapse of the Irish economy which had sailed so high on speculative fever for nearly 15 years.
Quinn's case goes to the guts of a national soul searching – with the perception of rampant inside dealings and cronyism among corrupt bankers and developers remaining one of the hottest buttons on the country's “what went wrong?” mutter list. The receivers of Anglo Irish, now nationalized as the Irish Bank Resolution Corporation (IBRC), have been trawling to reclaim their biggest debtors' assets to diminish the collapsed bank's 28 billion euro cost of recaptilization to the Irish taxpayer.
Anglo's former directorship is itself the subject of multiple criminal investigations for a raft of inside low-to-no interest loans within their inner circle before the Irish boom collapsed.
Whether Sean Quinn was the proper target for retribution is a subject of intense controversy even as the native of County Fermanagh (Northern Ireland) is being shifted this afternoon for a nine-week sentence with the common criminals in Mountjoy jail outside Dublin. Irish talk radio programs have been afire with discussions about the propiority of making a 66 year-old self-made tycoon of global proportions (Quinn was termed the 164 th richest man in the world by Forbes in 2008) a national scapegoat, as a substantial minority of the population (especially those in border counties near his own) and some his former job holders avow.
Just before 3 pm today, the Joe Duffy Programme on the Irish national broadcaster RTE was receiving 2,000 text messages a minute on this controversy – the equivalent of 140,000 a minute in the U.S. Initial tallies showed that one third thought that Sean Quinn, who has made a variety of statements of contrition along with repayment promises and is said to suffer from a variety of illnesses, was being railroaded.
But the High Court judge, Miss Justice Elizabeth Dunne, saw it differently. “In my view, he has only himself to blame.”