DUBLIN (Reuters) - Bankrupt former billionaire Sean Quinn, once Ireland’s richest man, was spared the indignity on Friday of being the first person jailed in connection with the country’s economic collapse, but was ordered to reveal his remaining assets.
Ireland’s High Court warned Quinn he could still face punitive measures, including imprisonment, if he fails to cooperate with an investigation into assets his creditors say he is hiding abroad.
Quinn, who has come to personify the boom and bust of Ireland’s “Celtic Tiger” economy, was found guilty of contempt of court on Tuesday for blocking a state-owned bank from seizing property worth hundreds of millions of euros (dollars).
Lawyers representing the bank had sought punitive measures against Quinn, including a possible jail sentence, but Justice Elizabeth Dunne gave him another chance, ordering him to disclose information regarding all his assets.
Quinn, whose 4 billion euro ($5 billion) business empire collapsed after a disastrous investment in the now-nationalized Anglo Irish Bank, is being pursued by the state-owned institution for debts of almost 3 billion euros ($3.73 billion).
The Irish Banking Resolution Corporation (IBRC), created from the remains of Anglo, asked the High Court to declare Quinn in contempt for violating an order not to interfere with foreign property assets worth an estimated 500 million euros
The ruling came three months after a judicial inquiry found corruption was “endemic and systemic” at every level of government in Ireland in the late 1990s.
Voters have been angered that after more than 60 billion euros of taxpayers’ money has been pumped into Ireland’s banks to keep them afloat, nobody has been jailed for mismanagement.
A long-running fraud investigation into the former management at scandal-hit Anglo has yet to yield any prosecutions.
Quinn, one of the boom’s brightest stars, has become a figure of abuse.
He turned a rural quarrying operation on his family farm into a global business empire only to become the subject of the largest Irish bankruptcy order four years after becoming the country’s richest man.
His use of loans to make ill-fated investments in the former Anglo Irish Bank has resulted in the failed lender pursuing him in a global treasure hunt from courtrooms in Dublin to the British Virgin Islands and elsewhere.
The bank, which slowly is being wound down after years of reckless lending left the state with a 30-billion-euro bill, said taxpayers faced substantial losses if it failed to secure assets it says Quinn holds in Russia, Ukraine and Belize.
Quinn, who choked back tears when giving evidence last month, admitted signing documents transferring Russian and Ukrainian assets to a new entity to put them out of reach of the bank, but said he did this before last July’s court order.
($1 = 0.8047 euros)
Reporting by Sarah O'Connor; Writing by Lorraine Turner and Conor Humphries; Editing by Michael Roddy