Book of evidence a blockbuster as trio of Anglo bankers sent for trial
IT LASTED just 10 minutes, with few public witnesses and no visual record. But it was a portentous moment in Irish commercial and social history. Lined up in the dock of the Criminal Courts of Justice were three former senior bankers of Anglo Irish Bank, a defunct institution that has already cost the State €29 billion.
Shortly before 10.30am in court No 1, Seán FitzPatrick, Willie McAteer and Pat Whelan were occupying separate benches, FitzPatrick supported by his daughter, sister and brother-in-law, McAteer and Whelan by their wives. All three defendants wore the bankers’ uniform of blue shirts and navy suits, although Whelan – at 50, the youngest by more than 10 years – had opted to go tie-less.
Meanwhile, lawyers were heaving 12 boxes of evidence through the door. The nine hefty volumes for each defendant (plus a set for the judge), represented the fruits of an investigation that has already taken 3½ years, and which could take another year to come to trial.
As the court clock struck 10.30, a hooter sounded with the warning that the building might have to be evacuated due to an “incident”. No one moved. Outside, a 30-year-old who announced he was homeless and up on charges of being drunk and disorderly mistook a besuited detective for a banker and loudly berated him for ripping off the country. His girlfriend – who said he was an attention-seeker – started to read out a letter he wanted delivered to FitzPatrick. The brief protest ended with his arrest for a “public order incident”, according to gardaí.
Back inside, the low, chaotic mutterings of defendants before the criminal branch of the District Court were oddly absent, replaced by serried, slickly groomed lawyers, bankers and smartly dressed investigators. Yesterday also another case involving the embattled Seán FitzPatrick was being heard farther up the quays in the bankruptcy court, where an application to fix a date for examination of his financial situation was adjourned after arguments that the criminal case against him might be prejudiced.
In court No 1, the three bankers were sitting awkwardly together in the dock, where an attempt to present the book of evidence to them foundered on the sheer size of the “book”. As lawyers started heaving the nine boxes across the court and into the clearly inadequately sized dock, the judge looked askance : “There’s no need to physically, personally deliver the files . . .”. Whereupon the boxes were heaved out of the dock again. It took only a few minutes to send the three forward for trial at the Circuit Criminal Court.
It was all over by 11.18. “Lock him up for life!”, shouted a youth half-heartedly, loitering on the steps, before urgently demanding a light for his cigarette.