"Tony's Oil 'Rigged'", Sunday World
Quinn Taken To Court As Bitter Fight Over $1Billion Company Gets Nasty, by Nicola Tallant
MUCKY Messiah Tony Quinn's dreams of becoming a black gold billionaire may soon be in tatters.
He has been named in explosive court documents which accuse him and an Irish businesswoman of “scheming” to take over a company.
The ‘mind guru’ was handed an estimated $20 million (€15 million) worth of shares in the company for free by his avid follower Susan Morrice in 2007, two years after the company she shared with four other founding members struck oil.
Now a massive court showdown will see Quinn, some of whose followers believe he is Jesus Christ, and Susan Morrice named as co-conspirators who are controlling the oil company, hiding accounts and only paying dividends to those shareholders who have remained in their favour.
But at the centre of the case, which will be played out in the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court on the island of Nevis, will be the relationship between Quinn and Morrice, a 58-year-old Belfast businesswoman who became a devotee of Quinn’s Educo in January 2002 when she attended one of his seminars in the sun.
The oil company, INE, is nothing to be sneezed at: it pumps up to 5,500 barrels of high grade oil every day, makes an estimated profit more than $100 million (€75 million) a year, is worth almost $1 billion (€750 million) and has 12 million barrels of reserves – enough to keep it going for over five years. It is owned by 350 Irish shareholders, none of whom have received a penny in dividends since the first oil find more than five years ago.
Now the row, brewing since Quinn’s appointment to the board, is to be played out in court where one of the founding directors is accusing Quinn and Morrice of “scheming” and “using their control to make and affect decisions which are in their best interests, and not in the best interest of the company”.
Documents, seen by the Sunday World, filed to a Nevis court and which have just come on the public record detail how Paul Marriot, one of the five founding members of the company, is suing Quinn, Morrice and the company.
He wants Quinn thrown off the board and his shares ruled null and void. He also wants full access to the company books, which he claims have been kept under lock and key by Morrice and Quinn.
Of the five founding members, three are currently in legal battles with Morrice and Quinn, while another has died. Morrice is the only one still on the board of directors.
In his statement of claim, Marriot says: “Morrice and Quinn have failed to act in an even-handed and fair manner to all shareholders. They have conducted the business affairs of INE in a manner that is oppressive, unfairly prejudicial to, and that unfairly disregards the interests of the Claimant.”
It further states: “Quinn acts as an alter ego for Morrice on the Board and both effectively join together to control INE and effect the breaches of director and fiduciary duties alleged...it appears that INE has been run solely by Morrice and Quinn and without meaningful consultation with the other directors for much of the period from 2006 through to today.”
The statement complains about how Morrice and Quinn have ignored shareholder and directors request for information on the finances of the company, saying: “This refusal is improper, unlawful, and done without any justification other than to cement Morrice’s and Quinn’s control over the board, finances and operations of INE.”
Quinn has long held out hope that he can join the ranks of the Texan barons after amassing a huge fortune through his costly ‘mind-bending seminars’ in some of the world’s most exclusive locations. It was on one of the seminars that he first met Morrice and her former friend Sheila McCaffrey, another founder of INE.
The company was set up in 2002 by Morrice and McCaffrey, Belizean surveyor Mike Usher, who has since passed away, driller and businessmen Paul Marriot and Geologist Jean Cornec.
McCaffrey raised funds in Ireland by selling shares, largely among followers of Quinn’s Educo group, although the guru himself is believed to have advised investors against putting money into it. His business manager Collette Millea told followers that Quinn was not endorsing the sale of the shares.
However, when in 2005 the then 82 shareholders were informed that the company had struck high-grade oil on its first ever drill and it was reported that they were all going to make a fortune, Quinn decided to change his tune.
At the time, McCaffrey credited Quinn’s mind technology for the find but since then the battle for control over the company has turned nasty.
McCaffrey is still a director but has no say in the business and Cornec is currently suing Morrice for more than $10 million (€7.5 million) he says he is owed after agreeing to sell his shares in the company.
INE are counter-suing Cornec saying that a campaign of negative remarks directed against Quinn and Morrice have damaged the value of the company and its shares.
In the months before his appointment as director of the company Quinn was flown to Belize, where he hosted a seminar for the then Belizien Prime Minister Said Musa, who has since been voted out of power.
The seminar, which was held on the private Caye Chapel island is suspected to have cost INE more than $150,000 (€112,000). Quinn was brought onto the island on a private jet and had his entire gym shipped over from Ireland.
While in Belize, he was brought to visit the first oil well, Mike Usher I, and kissed it, stating that the grass there was greener than anywhere else in the world.
In September he was brought onto the company board, whose members were later told that INE now recognises Quinn as a “founder”.
Since then, McCaffrey and Marriot have been ousted as Directors and Cornec has stepped down. Quinn is now facing a challenge to his ‘gifted’ directorship and the shares which he has boasted to followers have made him a very rich man indeed.
In 2007, when Quinn was appointed as a director, he announced on a Dublin stage that only ‘Educoists’ – or his followers – could now become shareholders, which reduced their value significantly according to the court papers.
In the documents, he and Morrice are accused of “misappropriating” corporate resources and funds.
Article sourced from Dialogue Ireland