Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 23 October 2014

Chief of doomed bank laughed at Anglo crash

Referendum option for Kenny in bid to find truth amid tapes revelations

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New Anglo Tapes reveal bank chief executive David Drumm joking with a senior executive about the haemorrhage of funds from the institution hours before the Irish government bank guarantee.

As his bank teetered on the brink of collapse, Mr Drumm is heard laughing: "Another day, another billion."

He was referring to the flight of deposits out of the doomed bank before the bank guarantee in September 2008 – running at over €1bn a day at the time.

Separately, in the wake of the furore over the revelations, it has emerged cabinet ministers are weighing up a second referendum to give the Oireachtas (Irish parliament) extra powers.

The Cabinet discussed at length yesterday how best to uncover the truth and ensure there is accountability after the banking crisis that cost the Irish taxpayer €64bn (£54m).

Although Taoiseach Enda Kenny said his government favoured an inquiry by an Oireachtas committee, cabinet sources said there was debate about other options.

Ministers are sceptical about the prospect of a weak Oireachtas inquiry uncovering the truth.

Instead, there was discussion about a repeat of the Oireachtas powers referendum, which was defeated two years ago, which would give TDs far-reaching powers.

Meanwhile, a separate batch of explosive Anglo Tapes reveal what was really going on as executives scrambled to save the stricken lender.

Anglo management strategised about how to try to keep the ailing bank afloat – and stay one step ahead of the regulators.

These tapes are expected to shed much new light on the hours ahead of the guarantee and the machinations involving bankers and politicians.

The original revelations generated international reaction yesterday and prompted a rethink from Dublin on how to ensure the saga is properly investigated.

The tapes have revealed how:

* Top executives lied to the government about the true extent of losses at the institution;

* Former chief executive David Drumm laughed at "abusing" the bank guarantee and warned his executives not to be caught abusing it.

Several senior ministers from Fine Gael and the Labour Party have raised the prospect of alternative ways of investigating the crisis instead of a parliamentary inquiry.

To capitalise on the public anger generated by the Anglo Tapes, ministers discussed holding a referendum on the same day as the Seanad abolition vote in September.

"Having heard the tapes, the public might take a different view on it," one cabinet minister said.

"People want witnesses summoned and questioned in public and on TV."

Public Expenditure Minister Brendan Howlin said people on the Anglo tapes could be called before the bank inquiries.

But he said any inquiry – no matter what format it takes – must stop if trials start.

"As soon as formal trials begin then obviously that module or that investigation would cease until the judicial process in concluded," he said.

Among the other options being looked at are a Commission of Investigation or a High Court Inspectorate.

"I don't think a parliamentary inquiry will do the job and I'm not the only one who thinks that.," another minister said.

Former Taoiseach Brian Cowen, who was both finance minister and taoiseach during the period when Anglo Irish expanded from a small lender into a major bank, said yesterday that he "looked forward to co-operating with any banking inquiry process".

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