Belfast Telegraph

Recordings are pored over for any evidence of breaking the law

By Ed Carty

GARDAI and financial watchdogs are examining recorded phone calls from inside the bust Anglo Irish Bank to determine if executives broke the law.

After three days of leaked conversations at the rogue lender from 2008, the Central Bank of Ireland revealed it was reading transcripts and will be working with the Garda fraud squad.

"The Central Bank is carefully studying the various transcripts emerging. This is something that is viewed very seriously," it said.

"The Central Bank will be liaising with the gardai in this regard and is also examining whether or not any breaches of regulatory requirements may have occurred arising from the information contained in the transcripts."

Several tapes of recorded phone calls, published by the Irish Independent, show Anglo's former chief executive David Drumm and other senior bankers laugh and joke about the lender's imminent collapse.

The calls centre around September 30, 2008 when the then Fianna Fail-Green Party coalition brought in a crippling €440bn (£373bn) guarantee for all the Irish banks.

Mr Drumm (below), who fled to the US after Anglo collapsed, is heard laughing "another day, another billion" – referring to the lender losing €1bn in deposits a day at the time.

Other calls hear how Anglo bankers joke that calculations for a €7bn bailout are pulled "out of their a**e".

Executive John Bowe is heard singing Deutschland Uber Alles when conversations swing to the anger felt in Germany and the UK over the guarantee.

It is believed the recorded phone calls may have been in the possession of gardai and corporate law investigators since raids in 2009, but that has not been confirmed.

And with anger growing over the content, the Government is under deepening pressure to establish an inquiry with the power to force bankers to give evidence and possibly face findings of guilt.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny is adamant a parliamentary probe is sufficient but concedes it can't deal with criminality.

It was planned to begin in the autumn, despite opposition calls for a Leveson-style approach.

There are also concerns that such an inquiry will be delayed when the trials start next year of three former Anglo bosses on fraud charges – ex-chairman Sean FitzPatrick, former finance director Willie McAteer and Pat Whelan, former MD.

Amid the fallout former Taoiseach Brian Cowen is facing renewed calls to come clean over his contacts with bankers around the time of the guarantee.

Worse revelations from internal conversations at Anglo are expected in coming days with suggestions that politicians and a civil servant may be mentioned for the first time.

Tanaiste and Foreign Minister Eamon Gilmore has accepted Ireland's international reputation is taking another beating.

The recordings sparked coverage worldwide, the conservative German broadsheet newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine printing that bankers and members of the previous Irish government should be put in a sack and beat with a stick until their screams can no longer be heard.

Labout minister Joan Burton said Mr Cowen and backbenchers from his Fianna Fail party who were in government at the time need to speak out.

Governor of the Central Bank of Ireland Patrick Honohan said the long-awaited Dail inquiry was inevitable.

"I think this is going to come. I'm actually looking forward to it," he said.

There are reports a referendum may be re-run to give the Dail more powers.

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