Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 23 July 2014

Former Anglo Irish Bank chairman Sean FitzPatrick's case hung on single phone call with ex-Anglo chief David Drumm

Sean FitzPatrick was found not guilty on all charges
Sean FitzPatrick was found not guilty on all charges

The prosecution of former Anglo Irish Bank chairman Sean FitzPatrick eventually hung on a single phone call he had with the ex-CEO David Drumm.

Mr FitzPatrick walked free from Dublin's Circuit Criminal Court last night after he was acquitted by a jury on all counts of permitting illegal lending to the so-called Maple 10.

The 65-year-old, who was earlier cleared by direction of trial judge Martin Nolan of permitting illegal loans to the wife and five adult children of businessman Sean Quinn, was found not guilty on the Maple 10 counts just after 5pm.

Judge Nolan had directed acquittals on the Quinn loans due to a lack of evidence.

Outside the Criminal Courts of Justice, Mr FitzPatrick thanked his family and friends who supported him over the last six "difficult" years, his legal team and the jury who had deliberated for 13-and-a-half hours before returning a majority not guilty verdict.

"First of all I would like to thank my wife, my two sons and my daughter and my sister who have supported me, not only during this trial, but for the past six years of great personal difficulty," the former banker said.

The main evidence against Mr FitzPatrick, whose senior counsel Michael O'Higgins claimed he had been "singled out" for prosecution, was an account he gave to gardai of a phone call he had with Mr Drumm days before the Maple 10 deal.

The then chairman was in the south of France when Mr Drumm called him on July 9, 2008, and said they had a solution to the Quinn problem, Mr FitzPatrick said when arrested. In garda custody, Mr FitzPatrick repeatedly insisted that Mr Drumm did not tell him the identity of the Maple 10.

They were a group of wealthy businessmen and developers who were considered to be among Anglo's most valued clients.

Several witnesses had testified that Mr FitzPatrick was surprised and annoyed to discover, after the deal, that the recourse of the loans was only 25pc.

Summing up the involvement of Sean FitzPatrick, Judge Nolan said the evidence in the case was that Mr FitzPatrick knew of the general problem in relation to the near 30pc stake Mr Quinn built up in Anglo using contracts for difference, described as gambling instruments in court.

"I think the only evidence in relation to this matter is from his own discussions with members of An Garda Siochana and he was interviewed at length," said Judge Nolan in his charge to the jury.

The judge highlighted two extracts of the phone call between Mr Drumm and Mr Fitzpatrick in his charge last Friday.

Last night, Judge Nolan formally discharged Mr FitzPatrick from the trial and told him he was free to go.

However, the jurors are still deliberating on the charges against his co-accused, Pat Whelan and William McAteer.

Mr FitzPatrick, Mr McAteer and Mr Whelan, were charged at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court with breaching Section 60 of the Companies Act 1963 by lending money to investors to buy shares in Anglo.

Mr Whelan (52) of Malahide, Dublin and Mr McAteer (63) of Rathgar, Dublin, were accused of 16 counts of providing unlawful financial assistance to 16 individuals in July 2008 to buy shares in the bank.

The 16 individuals are six members of the Quinn family and the Maple 10 group of investors. Mr FitzPatrick (65) of Greystones, Co Wicklow, faced 10 counts of lending money to the Maple 10 after earlier being acquitted by direction of Judge Nolan on the six Quinn loan charges.

All three denied the charges. The jury was earlier ordered to acquit Mr Whelan of a series of related counts.

Mr FitzPatrick smiled slightly as the verdicts were read out and afterwards embraced his family and shook hands with his legal team and co-accused.

Afterwards he addressed the media.

"I would of course especially like to thank my legal team: solicitor Michael Staines, Senior Counsel Michael O'Higgins, Junior Counsel John Fitzgerald and Gavin McCormack for their dedication and hard work".

Mr FitzPatrick said he wanted to "especially thank" the women and men of the jury who found him not guilty of all charges.

"To all my friends, who have stood by me and in particular two very special friends, I will always be truly grateful for their support during this very difficult time," he said.

"I now simply ask that the courtesy, which has been extended to me and my family during this trial by the media, will be maintained and the privacy of my family which has been intruded on over the past six years will now cease. Thank you very much ladies and gentlemen."

The loan for shares deal was devised after Mr Quinn told executives in September 2007 that he had built up a 24pc secret stake in Anglo through contracts for difference (cfds), which he later increased to almost 29pc. He held his stake through a Portuguese registered company, Bazzely Ltd, which he set up as an investment engine for his family for "tax efficient" purposes.

As Anglo's share price fell, the cost of Mr Quinn's spectacular punt rose, and he lost €2.4 billion funding margin calls with cfds providers – a hefty tag met by Anglo over the months.

Mr Whelan and Anglo's then chief-executive David Drumm chased clients to the south of France and Portugal to unwind his investment after trips to find investments in London, the US, the Middle East failed.

Source: Irish Independent