Pair fined for defying ruling over Quinn property

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A UKRAINIAN lawyer and an economist, who defied a prohibition on the disposal of eastern European property linked to bankrupt ex-billionaire Sean Quinn, are to be fined £15,000 each, a judge in Belfast has ruled.

Oleksandr Serpokrylov and Dmytro Zaitsev will be sentenced to four weeks in jail if they do not pay the financial penalty within six months, Mr Justice McCloskey warned.

He imposed the punishment on the two men for acting in contempt of a court injunction over a £29 million shopping centre in Kiev.

The pair, as representatives of a mysterious offshore company, were held to have flagrantly and deliberately ignored an order against any transfer of debts surrounding the mall.

Lawyers for the Irish Bank Resolution Corporation issued contempt proceedings against Mr Serpokrylov and Mr Zaitsez, and the British Virgin Islands-registered Lyndhurst Development Trading SA, for allegedly flouting the injunction imposed at the High Court in December 2011. IBRC, the former Anglo Irish Bank, has been seeking control of Mr Quinn’s international empire in an attempt to recoup more than £2bn.

As part of the wider legal battle Lyndhurst Development Trading was prohibited from enforcing any loan agreement.

Lyndhurst secured judgment from the Ukrainian court that it was entitled to enforce a £29 million debt against the firm which owns the mall, Univermag.

Mr Justice McCloskey has already found the property debt was transferred from one of Mr Quinn’s companies to put it beyond the reach of IRBC. All disputed transactions were declared null and void, with control returned to the former Anglo Irish Bank.

A chain of assignments scrutinised in the case set out how Fermanagh-based firm Demesne Investments, of which Mr Quinn is a former director, was owed £29 million by Univermag.

But in April 2011 Demesne transferred its rights to the debt to Innishmore Consultancy, another Northern Ireland company run by Mr Quinn’s nephew, Peter Quinn.

From there the loan was moved on to Lyndhurst. Lawyers for IBRC argued that the assignment was a sham, part of an asset-stripping exercise carried out at a massive undervalue and not worth the paper it was written on.

Despite securing judgment, they have pressed ahead with contempt of court proceedings against Lyndhurst, Mr Serpokrylov, a lawyer, and Mr Zaitsez, an economist. The two men appeared before the High Court by videolink from Kiev to defend the action.

In a scathing judgment last month Mr Justice McCloskey found both them and Lyndhurst in contempt of court.

Ruling yesterday on the penalties, Mr Justice McCloskey described the two men as “relatively minor players in the overall scheme” who had acted on their client’s instructions. The judge said it would be fair to fine each man £15,000 with six months to pay.

With no realistic prospect of enforcing any sequestration of assets or a fine imposed on Lyndhurst, as a corporate defendant shrouded in uncertainty, the judge adjourned contempt proceedings against the company for a further three months.