Northern Ireland news

Ex-British soldier 'made bug for Sean Quinn' ahead of Anglo Irish meeting

Client Confidential is out today
Connla Young

A former British soldier was employed to bug a meeting between Co Fermanagh businessman tycoon Sean Quinn and senior Anglo Irish bank officials.

The startling claim is made in a new book by a Co Cork-born former British soldier who uses the pseudonym Seán Hartnett.

‘Client Confidential – Spooks, Secrets and Counter-Espionage During the Celtic Tiger' lifts the lid on levels of paranoia in business during the boom years of the last decade.

A former member of the British army's secret Joint Communications Unit - Northern Ireland, Mr Hartnett was deployed to the north in 2001.

Part of his undercover role was to provide and install surveillance equipment in British army vehicles and security force facilities – a job which gave him access to some of the most sensitive operations launched by British military intelligence during his time in the north.

In 2016 Mr Hartnett published the book Charlie One, which revealed details of the undercover work carried out by his unit.

After leaving the military, the Cork native became the go-to man in Ireland for businessmen keen to keep up with their rivals - or in some cases desperate to make sure they were not the target of corporate espionage.

Mr Hartnett said his clients included the former Anglo Irish Bank, power giant EirGrid and Dublin gangster Eamon ‘The Don' Dunne, who was shot dead in 2010.

Sean Quinn – who at one time ran a business empire that included a 28 per cent stake in Anglo Irish Bank – was also on his books, he said.

Originally from Derrylin in Co Fermanagh, Mr Quinn was once the richest man in Ireland with an estimated wealth of more than €4bn.

Mr Hartnett revealed how he was approached to make and install a bug in a pen which was to be used by Mr Quinn during a meeting with Anglo Irish officials at a Dublin hotel in 2008.

Mr Quinn lost his business empire over a €2bn debt racked up buying shares in the ill-fated bank.

He was declared bankrupt in 2011 and a year later was handed a nine-week jail sentence for contempt of court following a trial over his dealings with the bank.

His son Sean Jr has also served a short prison sentence linked to the Anglo Irish affair while his nephew Peter has evaded a Garda arrest warrant after moving north of the border.

In his book, the former soldier claimed a representative of the billionaire businessman quibbled over the €5,000 price of the bug and how he eventually agreed to a ten percent cash discount.

The author claimed he was approached to build the bug for Mr Quinn by a third party who also worked in the ‘security' industry.

He later refused to hand over the device until he was told the identities of both the client and target - Anglo Irish Bank officials.

At the time the former soldier was also working for the bank so was confident the bug he was making for Mr Quinn would not be detected.

Mr Hartnett said he does not know if Mr Quinn ever used the bug.

Speaking to The Irish News, the former soldier said he was “surprised at the manner they (Quinn) went about it”.

He confirmed he was dealing through a “third party” and only found out the background because he was “nosey”.

“I suspect Sean Quinn had other sources he could have used, that's what surprised me, the method he went about it," he said.

“Maybe he was trying to put a bit of distance between himself (and the bug).”

Mr Hartnett said he felt some conflict when he realised he was working for both sides as Anglo's financial problems began to deepen.

“It was a real conflict, it was the first time really where you cross the boundary,” he said.

Mr Hartnett said that as the Celtic Tiger began to fail paranoia set in across the business world.

“They were massively paranoid during the Celtic Tiger as it was coming to the end," he said.

“The paranoia was killing those people and some of them with very good reason when it all came crashing down."

Client Confidential, which is published by Merrion Press, is available from today.

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