The wife of bankrupt businessman Sean Quinn, until recently Ireland’s richest man worth more than €4.7 billion, has been ordered to repay more than €3 million to the Irish Bank Resolution Corporation (IBRC), formerly Anglo Irish, after a judge ruled she had no defense to the bank’s claim.
In court Patricia Quinn claimed she was not liable on grounds of undue influence of her husband by virtue of their marital status, but that was described as “an incredible proposition” by Paul Gallagher, senior counsel for IBRC.
Justice Peter Kelly rejected arguments by Patricia Quinn that she was not obliged to repay the €3 million loan made jointly to herself and her husband in late 2006. She had argued that she was a homemaker, and was unduly influenced by her husband.
She said she regularly signed documents he put in front of her without reading them.
The judge said that since the middle of the 18th century, the law allowed for no presumption of undue influence between a wife and husband, and there was also no actual evidence of undue influence by Quinn over Mrs. Quinn, such as bullying behavior.
The judge quoted from another High Court judge, the late Justice Mella Carroll, who had said in another case 25 years ago that the day was long past when married women could be classified akin to infants and persons of unsound mind and evade liability by arguing they were only concerned with minding their house and children.
The judge also rejected Mrs. Quinn’s claims of a defense on grounds she did not understand what she was signing and did not benefit from the €3 million loan.
The truth was, the judge said, Mrs. Quinn gave no thought to what she was signing but that could not be a defense. Even a glance at the documents would have made clear to all but the illiterate they related to a borrowing transaction.
The bank claimed the loan was to go towards final decorative costs for the Quinn home at Ballyconnell, Co. Cavan, but the court heard that Mr. Quinn had directed the money be paid into an account of one of his companies, Quinn Manufacturing Ltd.
The Commercial Court heard that Mrs. Quinn had been a director of 63 Quinn Group companies in the Republic, 28 Quinn companies in the U.K. and secretary of about 10 companies.
Further details of how Quinn ran his family business emerged in court papers filed in the family’s separate legal action against Irish Bank Resolution Corporation.
The family has said the Slieve Russell Hotel in Cavan has been owned by Mr. Quinn’s daughter Brenda since it was built in 1990, but that it was held in trust for her by her mother until she turned 18.
In response to queries raised by the bank about their claims, the family said that it was difficult to say when Brenda Quinn became aware of her ownership of the Slieve Russell as she was about three years old when it was built.
Patricia Quinn and her five children are challenging the bank’s claim that they owe €2.3 billion, claiming that the loans are “tainted with illegality.”
They argue that the loans were advanced not for the good of the Quinn Group of businesses or the family, but to prop up Anglo’s share price as the banking crisis developed.
In separate court proceedings in Belfast, IRBC is this week seeking to have Quinn’s bankruptcy overturned.
Quinn has been declared bankrupt in Northern Ireland, but IBRC claims he is not entitled to file for bankruptcy there as the majority of his business is conducted in the Republic.
In the Dublin proceedings, the Quinn family have named former Anglo chief executive David Drumm and Pat Whelan, Michael O’Sullivan, Lorcan McCluskey, Elma Kinane and Catherine Kilduff among those at the bank who dealt with their loans.
Drumm, who fled to Cape Cod, Massachusetts, has refused to return to Ireland to face questioning about his stewardship of the bank.
The government nationalized Anglo Irish when it became the industry’s biggest casualty during the banking crisis and former Fine Gael leader Alan Dukes was appointed chairman of the re-named IBRC.
Meanwhile, the Garda (police) National Fraud Bureau and the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement (ODCE) have been investigating alleged financial irregularities at the bank, and a number of former senior executives have been arrested for questioning.
They include former Anglo Irish Bank chairman Sean Fitzpatrick, who was arrested for the second time earlier this month.
Gardai said they are preparing a file on him to be sent to the Director of Public Prosecutions who will eventually decide if criminal charges are to be made against Fitzpatrick.
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