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Roundup-Quinn guilty of illicit charade
Friday, 4th May 2012 08.21am

A $45m (E34m) property debt was transferred from one of bankrupt businessman Sean Quinn's companies to put it beyond the reach of a creditor bank, the Belfast High Court judge ruled yesterday.

Mr Justice McCloskey held that those responsible for the loan assignment over a Ukrainian shopping centre were "indulging in an orchestrated, elaborate and illicit charade".

He is now set to declare all disputed transactions null and void and return control to the former Anglo Irish Bank.

His ruling strengthens the overall attempt by the renamed Irish Bank Resolution Corporation (IBRC) to recoup more than 2bn it claims to be owed.

Proceedings were issued against the British Virgin Islands-registered Lyndhurst Development Trading in order to seize control of the shopping centre in Kiev.

IBRC claimed assets were stripped to prevent it from securing money owed to the bank.

A chain of loan assignments were under scrutiny in the case.

Fermanagh-based firm Demesne Investments, of which Mr Quinn is a former director, had been owed $45m by Univermag, the Ukrainian owners of the shopping centre. But in April 2011 Demesne transferred its rights to the debt to Innishmore Consultancy, another Northern firm run by Mr Quinn's nephew Peter Quinn. From there the loan was transferred on to Lyndhurst last October. Lawyers for IBRC argued that the assignment was a sham, carried out at a massive undervalue and not worth the paper it was written on. No defence was offered in the case after Lyndhurst's legal team came off record. Delivering judgment yesterday, Mr Justice McCloskey said: "The abrupt, unexplained and prima facie irrational assignment of a company asset, the $45m debt of which Demesne was the beneficiary, for nothing, or at most something truly minimal, speaks for itself. The Irish Independent XXXX Aer Lingus has reported a first quarter loss of E36.1m but said higher revenues per passenger mile will compensate for growing costs. The company warned in February that fuel costs would cause profits to drop in 2010 from 2011. Aer Lingus said losses were nearly a third lower than in the first quarter of 2011 and that the business is usually loss making in the quarter. Aer Lingus chief executive Christoph Mueller said the firm is now more upbeat about the future and that if current trends continued, 2012 operating profits should match that achieved last year. ''However, the performance of certain short haul routes is weaker than expected and our business continues to be subject to inflationary cost pressures,' he added. He said the company will continue to focus on its cost base ''explore measures to protect the group's profitability for the remainder of 2012 and beyond''. Total first quarter revenues this year rose by 15.4pc, Aer Lingus said. The Irish Independent XXXX Denis O'Brien has acquired another 5pc of Independent News&Media (INM) - increasing his shareholding in the company to around 27pc. Mr O'Brien was already INM's largest individual shareholder but this strengthens his position; although the stake isn't enough to trigger a mandatory takeover. Mr O'Brien made the purchase of nearly 33 million INM shares at noon yesterday at a price of 34.5c per share - 24pc higher than the 27.8c the stock was selling for at the time. The company's share price jumped by more than 15pc to 32c following news of the transaction. INM's share price has consistently been on the rise since its change in leadership - which saw former chief operating officer Vincent Crowley take over the CEO role - late last month. The move comes at an interesting point - a fortnight after the departure of Gavin O'Reilly as INM's chief executive - and just a month before the group's annual general meeting. If Mr O'Brien increases his stake in INM above 30pc this could trigger an automatic bid for the entire company, under takeover rules. Neutral opinion yesterday suggested the move could be seen two ways: as Mr O'Brien increasing his control of INM ahead of the Government looking to tighten media ownership laws later this year; but, more immediately, to give himself more voting power at the upcoming AGM, where the position of one of his two remaining representatives on the INM board, Paul Connolly, could be at risk. The Irish Examiner XXXX The Commercial Court has approved an application by AIB to reduce its share capital by almost E6bn for several purposes, including to clear current and future losses. The effectively nationalised bank also wants the reduction to establish a reserve to meet other liabilities. The move allows AIB to eliminate a E2.35bn deficit on the bank's profit and loss account. The remaining E3.6bn reserve created by the capital reduction will be available to the bank for various purposes including eliminating any future permanent losses. Ms Justice Mary Finlay Geoghegan yesterday confirmed a special resolution passed at an extraordinary general meeting of the bank on Jul 26 last year, allowing it to reduce its share capital by E6bn. The judge said that she was satisfied that no creditors of the bank would be adversely affected by the reduction and agreed with submissions made on behalf of AIB that the reduction had "a clear commercial purpose." The shareholders, the judge said, had been treated equitably and had been properly informed of the bank's move. Ms Justice Finlay Geoghegan also noted that neither the minister for finance, the Central Bank nor any of AIB's creditors had not objected to the bank's application. The judge further found that it was not necessary to direct an inquiry under Section 73.2 of the Companies Act 1963 to the bank's application. Section 73.2 provides that creditors have various entitlements, including objection entitlements, in circumstances where a proposed capital reduction involves either diminution of liability in respect of unpaid share capital or payment to any shareholder of any paid up share capital. The Irish Examiner

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