CONTEMPT OF court proceedings by Anglo Irish Bank against bankrupt businessman Seán Quinn, his son Seán Quinn jnr and nephew Peter Darragh Quinn over alleged “asset stripping” have been fixed for hearing at the High Court on March 21st. The bank is contending that various property assignments are invalid because documents were back-dated to support claims by the Quinn side to the effect that those assignments were carried out before a court order last July restrained dissipation of assets. The bank had learned that a company said to have received an assignment on April 6th, 2011, did not actually exist on that date, Paul Gallagher SC, for the bank, said yesterday. The situation was “moving all the time” and the bank had a real fear, unless the contempt matter was quickly determined, that it would lose out on “prime” assets. Just hours earlier, a receiver had been appointed over a company in Belize and other creditors were appearing concerning various assets in other jurisdictions, he said. The situation is “like a multi-headed hydra”, counsel said. “You cut one head off and more appear.” Anglo, now Irish Bank Resolution Corporation, has alleged contempt over alleged breaches of Mr Justice Frank Clarke’s July order. It was granted in proceedings where the bank claims the Quinn family was trying to put foreign properties with a value of up to €500 million – and on which the bank claims it has legitimate charges – beyond its reach. The foreign property portfolio is the most valuable asset owned by the family and the properties at issue are owned via a web of international holding companies. The main case, being heard by Mr Justice Clarke, is on hold pending a ruling from the European Court of Justice on a matter of jurisdiction but the injunction protecting the assets remains in place. When the contempt matter came before the judge yesterday, he was told both sides accepted it had to be adjourned to allow the Quinn side time to prepare their defence but were at odds over the length of the adjournment. Bill Shipsey SC, for the Quinns, said this was not a normal application for contempt as it ranged across matters in several jurisdictions. His side needed time to make inquiries in those jurisdictions as the bank had raised three specific matters on July 6th, July 20th and August 30th, 2011. There was a sworn statement by Richard Woodhouse of IBRC that certain matters could not be reversed, counsel said. His side would file at least four replying affidavits and wanted four weeks to deliver those after which the bank might wish to reply. The contempt matter would take weeks to hear, not days, he added. The bank had since September to get its proofs together and it was not unreasonable to allow his side time. He would also be very concerned about any form of “rolling contempt” where the bank would add more claims of contempt. Mr Gallagher said the matter was urgent. The Quinn side was told last September of the bank’s concerns about asset stripping and had claimed that it was done prior to any injunction, he said. The suggestion they needed considerable time to prepare for this motion was unjustified. The effects of the contempt are continuing and happening very quickly but the consequences could be stopped and reversed, he said. The bank had identified particular breaches of the order and could not say it it would find more Ruling on the adjournment application, Mr Justice Clarke said any application alleging contempt was serious and should be dealt with speedily but there had to be a proper opportunity to defend it. The court had to balance those two considerations. The judge said he would be reluctant to let the matter go beyond this court term and fixed it for hearing on March 21st in the expectation it would run for eight days.