Belfast Telegraph

Trial of ex-Anglo bankers to begin

One of the biggest trials in Irish legal history gets under way this week when three former bankers face charges of trying to inflate the share price of the now-defunct rogue lender Anglo Irish Bank.

Sean FitzPatrick, the former chairman and one-time chief executive, former finance director Willie McAteer and former chief financial officer Pat Whelan face a total of 16 charges.

The three men are due before court 19 of the Criminal Courts of Justice in Dublin on Tuesday morning for a trial that is expected to last six months - one of the longest-running criminal trials in Irish history.

Vast amounts of technical and financial evidence will be put before a jury of 12 people with case management hearings having been told there are 24 million documents and 800 witness statements.

An IT system will be used to electronically display documents during the trial while jurors will also be given laptops to view material.

Due to the expected level of public interest, a special viewing room is being opened in the Phoenix Park courts complex to allow people to watch the trial via video link.

FitzPatrick, 64, of Whitshed Road, Greystones, Co Wicklow, McAteer, 62, of Auburn Villas, Rathgar, south Dublin, and Whelan, 50, of Coast Road, Malahide, Co Dublin, have been charged with 16 counts of providing unlawful financial assistance to individuals in July 2008 to buy shares in the bank.

They are expected to enter pleas of not guilty before the trial begins.

The charges are linked to alleged loans of 451 million euro to the family of bankrupt former billionaire Sean Quinn and a golden circle of 10 clients hand-picked to invest in stock to prop up the share price.

Lawyers in the case applied last year for a special dispensation to select a panel of 15 jurors for the trial in order for three jurors to be on standby in case one of the other 12 is unable to continue.

FitzPatrick was declared bankrupt in 2012.

Anglo Irish Bank's share price collapsed in 2008 and a secret stock market gamble by Mr Quinn unravelled. The one-time tycoon had quietly built up a 25% stake in the bank using contracts for difference - a trade deal to shield the true identity of the buyer. The deals allow investors to gamble in the hope a share price rises and reap huge gains. If the value goes south, however, the investor is liable for massive losses.

Anglo's share price reached an all-time high of 17.53 euro in 2007 but later that year the credit crunch began to bite and rumours spread in financial circles that Anglo was in trouble.

The bank was ultimately nationalised in January 2009. The Irish government stepped in following commitments made the previous September under the bank guarantee scheme and the bailout cost 29 billion euro.

Anglo was subsequently rebranded the Irish Bank Resolution Corporation and then liquidated last year.


From Belfast Telegraph