Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 21 August 2014

Top bankers 'joked' about bailout

Eamon Gilmore says the taping of conversations between ministers and ex-Anglo Irish bankers underlines the need for a banking inquiry

Irish government ministers have been accused of turning a blind eye to the country's financial collapse after tapes emerged of top bankers joking about bailouts.

In a set of phone calls recorded five years ago, executives at the toxic Anglo Irish Bank laugh about abusing a blanket bank guarantee to beef up the books at the expense of the UK and Germany.

One conversation - taped two days after the fateful September 30, 2008 bank guarantee, and published by the Irish Independent - hears former chief executive David Drumm giggle while his colleague John Bowe recites lines from Deutschland Uber Alles.

Mr Drumm, who has since fled to the US, and Mr Bowe are heard laughing about concerns that the guarantee would drive a wedge between Ireland and its European Union partners. The former said he would give "two fingers" to UK concerns.

Finance Minister Michael Noonan and deputy prime minister Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore said they were unaware bankers' conversations were recorded. The Opposition hit out at the Fine Gael-Labour coalition for not examining reasons for the banking and economic collapse, claiming they either do not know or do not care that first-hand accounts of bankers' attitudes exist.

Pearse Doherty, Sinn Fein finance spokesman, likened the lack of knowledge among ministers to the three monkeys.

He said: "I would be extremely surprised if the Government does not know more than it is letting on - if they don't then they have completely abdicated their responsibility. And I'm not sure what's worse, the fact they are pleading ignorance or the fact they have not bothered to find out what's going on here. I think the Government's attitude with the banks is hear no evil, speak no evil. So, I think the Government took an approach not to ask any questions in case they got answers they don't like."

It is understood the Garda fraud squad and company law watchdog, the director of corporate enforcement, have had access to recorded phone calls in Anglo since the bank's headquarters was raided in 2009.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny has been on record as saying that there is no paper trail of the night of the bank guarantee. It was valued at about 440 billion euro. Then finance minister, the late Brian Lenihan, incurred the wrath of then UK chancellor of the exchequer Alistair Darling and German chancellor Angela Merkel for introducing it without consultation. Mr Darling since went on to say it was done in panic.

The Anglo tapes have been published as pressure mounts on how the Government will establish a banking inquiry - either through the Oireachtas parliament or a commission of inquiry. In a statement, the Central Bank of Ireland said it does not require banks to record calls.

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