Categories
Economy

Sean Quinn Goes To Jail as Anglo Calls in the Mafia

How do you get half a billion dollars back from Russian crooks?  There’s only one way.  You pay protection money to the Russian Mafia, which is exactly what the former Anglo-Irish Bank, is doing.  After the Quinns’ shenanigans, attempting to put assets beyond the reach of IBRC by hiving them off to something called IPG, the International Property Group, which controls up to €400 million, IBRC found itself stuck in a quagmire of shady legal detective work and dodgy Russian lawyers.    Anglo recently lost control of the €180 million Kutuzov Tower in Moscow after a Russian court reversed a previous decision, and now it feels it has no option but to enlist the help of a strong local partner.

For strong local partner, read The Sopranos multiplied by a thousand.  These guys are worth €50 billion and they have annual profits of €2 billion.  They don’t just do Construction and Refuse like your average New Jersey mobster.  No.  According to their website, they have a banking presence in Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, Kazakhstan, the Netherlands, Cyprus, the United States and the United Kingdom.  That division has 23,0000 employees, 70,000 corporate clients and nearly 7 million individual customers, and that’s just the bank.  Their oil business is worth €4 billion, employs 50,000 people in Russia and Ukraine and pumps 2 million barrels of oil a day.  They own 3,000 supermarkets, the biggest telecomms network in Turkey and they supply water to eight cities in Russia and the Ukraine.

Alfa, of course, was set up by the seemingly endless stream of oligarchs who emerged under Boris Yeltsin, obscure people with no major wealth, who suddenly became owners of vast oil, gas and mineral resources.

Alfa is a consortium of four such men:  Mikhail Fridman, Len Blavatnik, Viktor Vekselberg and German Khan.

Fridman started his career by scalping tickets.  He founded Alfa Group in 1989 at the age of 25 with few visible assets but is now worth about €12 billion in personal wealth.

Blavatnik is a Russian American who, at the age of 29, founded Access Industries and made diversified investments in Russia just after the collapse of Communism.  His personal worth is about €8 billion, give or take.

After working as a State employee for many years, living on a State salary, Viktor Vekselberg prospered when Yeltsin took power, becoming joint owner of TNK, one of the biggest oil and gas corporations in Russia.   He made his first million selling copper from old cables, but now owns a collection of Fabergé eggs.  Vekselberg is worth about €10 billion.

German Khan is a colourful character.  Director of the TNK-British Petroleum joint venture, he’s reputed to enjoy Berlusconi-style bunga-bunga parties at his hunting lodge.  According to the BP chief operating officer, Khan believes The Godfather is a manual for life.  He claimed that Khan once turned up for dinner carrying a chrome-plated pistol.

That’s Alfa Group for you.

This isn’t Martin Foley, the Viper, we’re talking about.  This isn’t Harry Dean Stanton, the Repo Man, flinging dead rats into open-topped convertibles.

It isn’t, for that matter, poor Seán Quinn either.  Although he might have been the richest man in Ireland, it’s doubtful if these oligarchs would have let him wear a cap and drive their limos.

So what’s the deal?  Well, the Russian Mob get 35 cents on the euro for everything they “recover”, but not only that.  They get to keep the first €25 million.

Remember now, this isn’t some abstract non-money arrangement like the contracts-for-difference that Sean Quinn and his brood were gambling with until it all went tits up and they had to pay the bookies.  No.  This is real hard cash, but more to the point, it’s our hard cash, thanks to the insane and juvenile decision by Lenihan and Cowen to nationalise Anglo.  In other words, a State-owned corporation, IBRC, has agreed to pay ransom money to the Russian Mafia so that we can get some of our funds back, after the Quinns gave control of them to an assortment of crooks, chancers and frauds.   Why was that done?  So that we, the taxpayers would not be recompensed for our bailout of the banking investors and the Quinn family could hold on to assets they did not own, paid for by you and me.  If Alfa “recover” €400 million, we’ll get €260 million of it, less the €25 million.  In other words, we’ll get €235 million, which is a little under 59 cents on the euro.  We lose 40% of our money one way or another thanks to the Quinns.

Got that?  Good.

Meanwhile, poor old Sean languishes in the training unit of Mountjoy for failing to comply with the instructions of an Irish court, as well he might.  If I gave the finger to the district court, I’d find myself in the slammer, never mind telling the High Court to get stuffed.  The question is simple: are we all obliged to obey the courts or are some of us exempt?  It looks like the Quinn family believe themselves to be above that sort of law, a bit like Leona Helmsley, who notoriously remarked that taxes are for the little people.  Maybe in Quinnworld, obeying the law is for the little people as well, but the rest of us are paying through the nose for that sort of hubris.

Not only are we paying higher taxes to cover the Anglo bailout, but also an insurance levy to cover the cost of the Quinn Direct mismanagement, and let’s not forget that €105 million or so we’ll be paying the Russian Mafia to unpick the Quinns’ shenanigans in the former Soviet Union.

Meanwhile, they’re protesting in Cavan.

Categories
Banking

A Tale of Two Seáns — Quinn Gives Radio Interview

I met Seán Quinn once, and I found him an amiable, approachable sort of fellow with a good line in self-deprecatory wit.  He wasn’t slow to admit his own role in the financial disaster that overtook his companies and I liked him for his honesty.  He was a million miles removed  from the inflated, pompous fools like Seán FitzPatrick and AIB’s Brian Goggin, a man who once lamented on national TV that he’d get less than €2 million in salary that year.

What’s more, Quinn is spoken of around Cavan as a man without airs and graces, who was perfectly happy in the corner of some small pub playing penny poker with the locals and enjoying a few sociable pints.  That’s when he wasn’t busy being the richest man in Ireland, of course.  They say he always paid up on his poker debts, even if he lost fifty quid or more, and he’d always stand a round when his driver came to collect him.

Decent man, Seán.  One of our own.  It reminded me of the Richard Harris myth in Limerick.

I don’t know if you heard his  interview on Shannonside Northern Sound today.  I chanced across it on Newstalk, and I have to say it’s the most extraordinary mix of self-pity, arrogance, delusion and spin that you’re likely to hear this side of Bertie Ahern crying on the Six-One News.

Like all normal people, my first instinct was to feel sorry for this decent individual whose son is in jail.  That can’t be easy and as a father I felt my heart jump a little, in sympathy with a man who says his family mean everything to him.  He spoke of protecting his good name, and of how it means more to him than all the money in the world.  He spoke of how he built up his business and never owed any man.  He spoke of putting his wealth beyond the grasping reach of the corrupt bank, Anglo.

He very nearly had me, until I remembered that this is not Anglo pursuing him for three billion euros of our money.  This is IBRC, a  company set up to try and recover all the billions thrown away by Anglo and by Fingleton, including the money Anglo fraudulently lent to people  in order to prop up the value of their own shares.

He very nearly had me believing that a man who was once Ireland’s richest, and who ranked around 150th in the entire world for wealth, was somehow fooled and seduced into accepting a loan he didn’t understand.

Nearly, but then the less sympathetic side of me started asking uncomfortable questions.

Why is he calling himself and his family scapegoats?  Did he or did he not borrow this money in an illegal attempt to inflate Anglo shares?  Does he or does he not owe this money back to IBRC, a wholly State-owned company?  Is it not true that if IBRC fail to recover the money, it will have to be found through higher taxation or further cuts in services?

Why does he keep talking about Anglo, the hated bank that sank Ireland?  IBRC is not Anglo.  IBRC is trying to recover some of the money lost by Anglo in its numerous dodgy deals, including the money he owes to the Irish people.

Anglo, in Sean Quinn’s delusional world, was at fault for lending the €3 billion, not the Quinns for taking out those loans.  In other words, Quinn is looking for a fool’s pardon, in pretty much the same breath where he claims that his enterprise was the best company in the history of the State.  So which is it?  Was Seán Quinn an idiot or was he the best businessman the country has ever known?  He can’t have it both ways, except in Cavan where they regard him as a hero.  (I’ll resist all temptation to mention the shape of the old 50p piece and move right along from here).

Apparently oblivious to the carry-on of his fugitive nephew, Peter Quinn, Seán emphasises in the interview that he was never one to jump on an aeroplane and run away from trouble.  Seán claims to be a victim of an Anglo PR campaign, while at the same time talking about the court’s feelings, as if the judges made their findings about his activities based on how they felt when they woke up in the morning.

Listen to this for delusional talk:

We were retaining our own assets and they were moving illegally on these assets.  Obviously the court didn’t feel that way and the court felt that we had taken these assets illegally.

Wrong.  The court didn’t feel anything.  The court found as a matter of fact, on the evidence presented, that the Quinns had broken the law.

I think this is very revealing.  I think it betrays a widespread attitude in the border counties that the law is only slightly binding.  At no time does he acknowledge that the courts made findings of fact about him, his family and his companies.   Fact, not feelings.  Not prejudices.  Not assumptions — steel-grey facts that he has not denied, including the fact that he and members of his family tried to put assets beyond the reach of IBRC, and therefore beyond the reach of the Irish State.

During the interview, neither Seán Quinn nor the interviewer referred to the things Judge Peter Kelly had to say about a related case.  Let me quote him:

Never before have I seen such conduct on the scale demonstrated here nor with the deviousness with which this scheme has been operated.

The judge said that the Quinn family had operated a scheme that  reeked of dishonesty and sharp practice and that was designed to place assets out of reach.  In granting an injunction against Karen Woods, recently married to Seán Quinn Jr, the court heard that Ms Woods had received an annual salary after tax of €320,000 per annum since  April 2011 from the Quinns’ Russian associates.  Nice money.  Clearly, the Russians place a high value on Karen’s qualifications, though the courts take a rather less benign view.  The injunction prevented Karen from moving Quinn assets out of reach of their creditors, as if she would.

According to Seán, the media “have fell” hook, line and sinker for the Anglo story.   He hopes that the public will get the proper story in time.

Someone would need to point out to Seán that Anglo is no more, and that the “story” was actually a full-blown court case where all the facts were laid out and examined.  He appears to believe that the entire conflict is still a PR battle and this is where the delusional nature of his thinking becomes most apparent.

Here comes an uncomfortable fact for Seán.  It doesn’t matter what story the public get.  This is the High Court, his son is in jail, his nephew is on the run and he’ll do time himself if he doesn’t give the money back to the State.

That’s it.  Forget about PR campaigns.  Forget about drumming up public support.  The game is up.    Despicable though Anglo was, it didn’t cause Quinn’s problems.  He was the one who made all those appalling decisions, and if he really means what he says about his integrity and his good name, it’s about time he admitted the obvious facts instead of whingeing.

On a personal level, I can’t help but empathise with Seán Quinn, especially when he told the interviewer he was scared of prison, but he couldn’t leave it at that.  He claimed he never owed anyone anything, and that’s where I did a double-take.

Has he managed to separate Seán Quinn, the ordinary father, football player and hard worker from Seán Quinn, Ireland’s richest man?  Is that it?  Does he believe there are two Seán Quinns?

He doesn’t lead a high life, and I know that he’s fond of the odd poker game around Cavan at modest stakes. in modest pubs over a pint or two with old friends.  So maybe that’s what he has in mind when he says he owes nobody anything.  Maybe he means he always bought  his round and always paid his modest gambling losses after a friendly game of cards and a few pints.

But of course, that’s not the Seán Quinn the courts are interested in.  They’re talking about the other guy, who owes this State €3 billion and has no intention of covering his gambling losses, even if he has to go to jail.

 

 

Categories
Bock's People

Quinns Jailed — A Fistful of Euros

It’s hard to beat Country ‘n’ Western billionaires for entertainment, and it doesn’t get more C ‘n’ W than Fermanagh, home place of Seán and Peter Quinn, but the Deliverance theme has gone into overdrive with their latest caper.

What sort of shenanigans have the Quinns been up to at all?  As we speak, Seán Junior is lying on a bunk in his prison cell, staring at the ceiling and asking himself where it all went wrong.  I never done it, Sheriff.  I didn’t never do nothin’ to nobody.

Ok, Pete.   Tell it to the judge.

Meanwhile his cousin, Peter Darragh Quinn, is facing arrest once the posse finds him.  People less charitable would say he’s on the run from the law but let’s just say he’s incommunicado, and we’ll he might be since the judge issued a bench warrant for his arrest after he failed to turn up in court today.

The boys were caught trying to asset-strip what remained of their company’s value by hiding cash in dodgy Ukrainian shopping centre developments, and showed a very bad attitude when it came to complying with the court’s instructions, but that’s what you can expect from young fellas who grew up with a silver spoon up their arses.  Country ‘n’ Western billionaires are like that.

Seán Snr, once Ireland’s richest man, has been permitted to stay at large so that he can make arrangements to comply with the court’s instructions and return the €450 million he and the younger generation were trying to hide from IBRC (aka you and me).  This is in addition to the €2.5 billion that IBRC are trying to recover from the Quinn family.  The Quinns’ defence against this action is the most bizarre I ever heard, and it’s essentially this: since Anglo-Irish Bank illegally lent them the money to buy shares in the bank in an effort to fraudulently inflate the share value, they have no obligation to pay it back.

I’m still trying to figure that one out, but when I finally crack it, you’ll be the first to know.  Maybe if I send it to the Large Hadron Collider, they might bombard it with neutrons until it makes sense.

Anyway, Junior is in jail, pickin’ his banjo, blowin’ on his harmonica and a-listenin’ to the coyotes howlin’ at the moon.  Senior is begging a gang of grim-faced Russians to give the money back.  If he fails to convince them, Ms Justice Elizabeth Dunne will fling him in jail along with the young fella, and the cousin, if the Pinkerton agents ever track him down.

I wonder where young Peter is holed up?  Could it be in the Badlands of Monaghan, disguised as Big Tom or Declan Nerney?  Maybe he’s fixin’ to bust his cousin loose and go on a rampage across Cavan and Monaghan.  For all I know, he’s down in that there livery stable right now, with two fast horses, chewin’ a fat old cee-gar and linin’ up a stick of dynamite to toss at the jailhouse wall.

Sheriff, you better wake up that deppity o’ yours.  Looks like y’all could be a mite busy tonight.

Categories
Banking Economy Favourites NAMA

Killiney Eviction

Wait a minute now.  Let me just process this Killiney eviction story that RTÉ is getting in such a lather about.

On the face of it, the facts are truly shocking.  Here’s a man of 71, and his 63-year-old wife being ejected from their home by bailiffs.  Out on the side of the street with nowhere to go, in such destitution that they have to set up a leaky tent outside their former home, the couple huddle together for warmth while their neighbours look on in outrage.  Meanwhile, the brutal thugs hired by the banks have control of the family home where all the old couple’s treasured possessions lie unprotected from curious, grubby fingers.

An appalling scenario, reminiscent of the worst excesses of nineteenth-century landlordism in Ireland, as the man himself, Brendan Kelly, so tellingly pointed out.  Innocent poor people thrown out on the side of the road.

Well, maybe not.

Earlier reports failed to mention, for instance, that Brendan Kelly is himself a landlord who owns many rental properties around Dublin.  They failed to mention that the bank secured a repossession order against the couple two years ago.   And they failed to mention that Kelly wouldn’t sell any of his properties to pay off the money he owed to Irish Nationwide.  Of course, when I speak of the money he owes to Irish Nationwide, I really mean the money he owes to us, the Irish people, who now own that bank.  And when that putrid bank, now part of IBRC, writes off a two-million-euro debt, that’s €2 million more that we — you and I — must pump into the bank to compensate for the loss.

Did I mention that the poor old codgers, who have no children, were living in a €3-million five-bedroomed mansion in one of the most exclusive areas of Dublin?    They needed a house with five bedrooms so that they could move to a new bedroom when they got bored sleeping in the last one.  This is a basic human right.

Another thing RTÉ overlooked in its zeal to protect those who share the DNA of its executives is this: the bailiffs were not working for IBRC.  They were working for the Sheriff who was executing an order issued by a court, and therefore all the talk by Brendan Kelly about phoning the bank was just so much tosh.  He knew the order had been issued.  He had two years’ advance notice, and yet, somehow, the couple found themselves out on the street without so much as a jacket to shelter them from the rain.  Two years’ notice, and yet he didn’t take the elementary precaution of moving his computer or his files, even though these form the basis for his business.

One other thing RTÉ didn’t press too much was Brendan Kelly’s arrangement with Fingers Fingleton.   You see, ten years ago, in 2002, Fingers was prepared to lend a 61-year-old guy €2 million towards the cost of a €3.75 million house.  That’s what I said.  €3.75 million.

Now, of course, it’s true that the money might have been lent to his wife, Asta, who was 53 at the time, and maybe the loan was over 17 years, bringing it up to 2019.  This is not yet clear.  What is clear is that the couple weren’t able to meet the repayments on their house  and it just so happens that those loan repayments were owed to a bank owned by you and me.  Since it’s been covered extensively in previous items on this site, we won’t go into the reasons why we own this bank.  But we do.

Oddly for an accountant, Brendan wasn’t quite able to recall when he first fell into arrears.  He thinks it might be about three years ago.   His memory also lets him down when asked about the date of the repossession order, but he thinks it might have been about two years ago.  And so, for two years, Brendan did precisely what you’d expect an accountant to do: nothing.  He didn’t even move his office out of the house.

Now, as I said, Brendan and Asta own a sizeable portfolio of property around the more salubrious parts of Dublin including apartments in Simmonscourt Castle and Ballintyre Hall.  This is not the lower end of the market.  Brendan and Asta are doing pretty well compared to most.  How many Ballsbridge apartments do you own?

Let’s get our heads clear now.  They knew the bailiffs were coming.  They’d known about it for two years.  There was a court order.  They didn’t have the money to settle the debt, and yet they stayed in their €3.75 million luxury mansion, instead of doing what the rest of the country  would have to do: get out.

It never occurred to them that maybe it would be a good idea to move into one of the many other properties they own all over Dublin.  Why?  Presumably because they might have to mix with the lower orders.  How could one possibly survive in an ordinary luxury apartment without even a gated community around one for comfort and security?  Ridiculous!

And so they clung on, buoyed up by the moral support of their neighbours in their own €3.75 million mansions who were utterly shocked and outraged at such inhuman treatment of an elderly millionaire.  Surely he should be allowed to live out his remaining years in the opulence he’d grown accustomed to.

Now, of course, if the story happened to be about Anto and Sharon from Killinarden, I’m not so sure it would have been front-page and prime-time news, but this action by the Sheriff was a strike at the very heart of South Dublin affluence, the place from which our national broadcaster derives its reason for existence.  The place that defined not only the attitudes and ethos of RTÉ but also provided its management and even defined the very accent in which the station speaks.

In the RTÉ world, Ireland is divided in two: Dublin and TheCountry.

Dublin does not include Tallaght, Ballyfermot, Neilstown or any of those appendages that exist solely to provide stock stereotypes for bad drama.  Dublin is anything south of Donnybrook, but excluding embarrassing local authority housing estates in the likes of Dun Laoghaire.

TheCountry is the rest of us muck-savages, or the majority of the population, as we like to describe ourselves.

Why is this story so big on the airwaves?  Simple: it’s the first time anything like this happened in Dublin, the only place that matters.  Meanwhile, in a development so laden with irony, the Occupy movement has moved in to support the Kellys, even though their transaction with Fingleton was the sort of thing that bankrupted Irish Nationwide in the first place.

A peculiar, and sympathetic, form of ageism permeates the reportage, with the couple described as “elderly”.  Brendan Kelly is a sprightly and razor-sharp 71, while his wife, Asta, is a woman of working age.  Neither of them are people in their dotage, and yet the implication seems to be that they were a bit confused when they got drawn into this mortgage, or else that they can’t understand what’s happening to them now.  Brendan wasn’t so confused that he couldn’t consult his computer to keep track of the various tenancies he makes money from.

The poor old devil isn’t that confused, God bless him, and neither is his incredibly ancient 63-year-old wife, who just happens to be a year older than Enda Kenny, the man who heads our government, and who is never described by anyone as elderly.  She’s five years younger than Vincent Browne — try calling him elderly and see what he tells you.

It’s time to call this story for what it is.  Bullshit.

Here’s a couple who owe a State-owned bank €2 million but want to hold onto their high-value mansion while at the same time renting out luxurious apartments all over Dublin, a couple who pull a ridiculous stunt by setting up a tent in the street instead of doing what the rest of us would have to do — move into a smaller place and get used to it.

So this childless couple can’t have the pleasure of occupying five bedrooms?  So what?  Get over it, and stop bombarding us with a non-story when real people are being evicted all over the country without a choice of alternative properties to live in.

I find it nauseating that this well-off man should insult the memory of those evicted in the hard times by comparing himself to the oppressed Irish of the nineteenth century.  No en-suite bathroom?  This is truly a First World Problem.

 

UPDATE

It turns out that the Kellys also own 13 apartments in London.

 

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