Belfast Telegraph

Friday 26 December 2014

Ex-bankers given community service

Willie McAteer has been given community service
Willie McAteer has been given community service

Two former executives at the defunct Anglo Irish Bank will serve 240 hours' community service for their role in an illegal lending plot.

Pat Whelan and Willie McAteer were spared jail in April over a rogue 450 million euro scheme to unravel a secret stock trade in July 2008 that regulators feared threatened Ireland's entire bank system.

Dublin Circuit Criminal Court was told the order was being imposed in lieu of a two-year prison sentence.

Judge Martin Nolan told the men to make the most of the time.

"Gentlemen, enjoy your community service," the judge said.

The bankers had been convicted earlier this year over the lending to a secret circle of Anglo clients, businessmen and developers nicknamed the Maple 10.

The loans were part of deals to unravel a doomed 2.4 billion euro gamble on Anglo's shares - 28% of its total stock - by former billionaire industrialist Sean Quinn.

Whelan and McAteer are the first company directors to be prosecuted in Ireland under Section 60 of the Companies Act. They are now barred from similar roles for five years.

Whelan, 52, and a father of two, of Malahide, Co Dublin, and McAteer, 63, and also a father of two, of Rathgar, Dublin, did not speak for the brief hearing and smiled as the order was handed down.

They made no comment leaving the courts complex.

The court heard the men had been assessed over the last three months and were regarded suitable for community service.

They had been found guilty over the loans to the Maple 10 but not guilty of illegally lending money to members of the Quinn family for the same share buy up plan.

The terms of the Quinn loans included a recourse clause which required the family to repay the money in full while the Maple 10 were only on the hook for 25% of the lending.

Sean FitzPatrick, Anglo's former chairman, was found not guilty of all charges relating to the scheme.

At the end of the trial in April, Judge Nolan singled out the former financial watchdog in Ireland Patrick Neary for damning criticism over the illegal loans-for-shares scam at Anglo.

At the time he said it would be unjust to jail Whelan and McAteer.

The judge said they were guilty of a blatant crime but acted with the knowledge of the watchdog which failed to throw up any red warning lights or simply chose to ignore illegal lending.

The 11-week bankers' trial was the first involving anyone from the financial services industry following Anglo's crash and a crippling 30 billion euro bailout.

The 240 hours order is the maximum community service tariff which can be imposed by a judge.

Judge Nolan said that the orders should run concurrently based on the 10 counts of fraud Whelan and McAteer were found guilty of.

There was no indication given in court what type of work the men will carry out during their service, which works out at six weeks of average working weeks, but the 240 hours will have to be completed within a year.

According to the Probation Service, which oversees community service orders, the sanction is intended to provide real benefits to communities by carrying out work and tasks that might not otherwise be done.

The agency said: "It provides opportunities for participants to make reparation to the community for the wrong done in their offending. Community service also provides a meaningful sanction and alternative to custody for courts."

It added that the work is aimed at not-for-profit, charitable organisations and bodies and community interests.

"Community service adds measurable value to communities and every year thousands of unpaid hours of work are completed, benefiting many communities and voluntary groups," the agency said.

Options open to the Probation Service for work for Whelan and McAteer include anything from graffiti removal and painting and decorating a community centre to ground clearance work and general gardening or recycling projects.

They may also be asked to carry out basic building maintenance and landscaping, improvements to park and community facilities, helping with voluntary and community clubs, facilities and bodies, working with individuals or groups in need and supporting local initiatives.

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