Belfast Telegraph

My family lost billions in the Anglo fiasco, Sean Quinn tells court

By Donal O'Donovan

Businessman Sean Quinn was a "fool to believe" in Anglo Irish Bank investments that cost his family billions of euros in just two years, he has told a court.

He said that in 2007/8 his family lost €3.2bn (£2.6bn) through "the Anglo fiasco".

The Fermanagh-born 67-year-old said he initially only meant to make modest investments in Anglo but ended up using nine brokers to secretly buy almost 30% of the now defunct lender.

The stake in Anglo Irish Bank controlled by the Quinn family is central to the trial of three of the bank's former directors, who deny providing illegal loans to buy shares in the bank.

Once the 12th richest man in the UK and Ireland, and also in the Forbes top 200 richest people in the world, Mr Quinn admitted: "At the time we only talked about putting our toe in the water but I'm afraid the whole feet, head, neck and heels went in."

He said if he had known of the bank's problems, he wouldn't have bought any shares.

He claimed that Anglo chiefs knew the full extent of looming troubles at the bank as far back as late 2007, shortly after he told David Drumm, the then chief executive, and one-time chief executive Sean FitzPatrick about the scale of his holding.

Mr Quinn's stake was built up through so-called contracts for difference (CFDs), a type of financial product that meant he did not have to declare his interest in the bank publicly.

"We'd always like to keep under the radar," Mr Quinn said.

The use of CFDs meant when bank shares fell in value, the Quinn's investment vehicle had to find cash to meet "margin calls" from the brokers to make up for the decline.

The court heard that by December 2007, the Quinn Group was haemorrhaging money trying to meet the cost of losses on the secret share deals. Quinn Group's "kitty was empty", he said.

He said he did not ask for loans but was happy when they were offered. Mr Quinn said one of the first payments to cover losses on the trades – £332m – was Anglo investing in itself using the Quinn name. But after borrowing hundreds of millions over the next eight months from Anglo, the bank's money had dried up, the court heard.

Asked what would have happened if Anglo had not loaned him the money, Mr Quinn replied: "I'd be a very happy man".

Mr Quinn said that in July 2008 Anglo chiefs made it clear that part of the secret 29.3% stake in Anglo was being sold off in ordinary shares to investors.

The ex-tycoon said he was furious and threatened legal action.

"We were just wondering was there some sweetheart deal," the former tycoon said. "It certainly was not for our benefit."

The stake was eventually sold to six members of his family and a group known as the Maple 10.

BACKGROUND

Sean Quinn was the fifth witness to testify in the trial of Sean FitzPatrick (65) from Greystones, Co Wicklow; Patrick Whelan (51) of Malahide, Co Dublin; and William McAteer (63) of Rathgar in Dublin.

All three men have pleaded not guilty to 16 charges of unlawfully providing financial assistance to individuals for the purpose of buying shares in Anglo Irish Bank in 2008. Mr Whelan has also denied seven charges of being privy to the fraudulent alteration of a loan facility letter.

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