Anglo trial: Sean FitzPatrick not guilty on all counts

Jury has yet to decide on allegations facing Pat Whelan and William McAteer

Former chairman of Anglo Irish Bank Sean FitzPatrick has been acquitted on all charges against him at the Dublin Circuit Criminal Court. He is pictured leaving the court this evening. Photograph: Aidan Crawley/The Irish Times

Former chairman of Anglo Irish Bank Sean FitzPatrick has been acquitted on all charges against him at the Dublin Circuit Criminal Court. He is pictured leaving the court this evening. Photograph: Aidan Crawley/The Irish Times

Wed, Apr 16, 2014, 20:56

Former chairman of Anglo Irish Bank Seán FitzPatrick was acquitted on all charges against him at the Dublin Circuit Criminal Court this evening.

The jury had deliberated for almost 13 and a half hours when they reached their majority verdict.

Judge Martin Nolan told Mr FitzPatrick he was free to go.

The 65-year-old from Greystones, Co Wicklow, had been charged with 10 counts of providing unlawful financial assistance to 10 individuals, known as the Maple 10, in July 2008 to buy shares in the bank, contrary to Section 60 of the Companies Act.

The jury has yet to decide on the allegations facing William McAteer (63) of Rathgar, Dublin; and Pat Whelan (51) of Malahide. They have also been charged with providing unlawful financial assistance to the Maple 10 and in addition, they face six counts of providing unlawful financial assistance to six members of the Quinn family.

Though Mr FitzPatrick had originally faced charges in relation to the Quinn loans, the judge had directed he be found not guilty of these at an earlier stage in the case.

Quinn holding

The trial centred on a deal to unwind businessman Seán Quinn’s holding in Anglo. The court had heard that by July 2008 Mr Quinn’s contracts for difference (CFDs) – investment products based on share price – were equivalent to more than 28 per cent of the bank’s shares. This was a serious concern for the bank as it was feared if the CFDs were unwound in an uncontrolled manner, it would have a negative effect on the bank’s share price.

A deal was devised which involved providing loans to the Maple 10, all bank customers, to buy just over 1 per cent each of the shares underlying the CFDs with six members of the Quinn family buying 15 per cent of the shares.

The Maple 10 borrowed €45 million each while the Quinns borrowed €169 million. The deal was executed on July 14th, 2008.

Mr FitzPatrick did not give evidence during the trial and the case against him centred on a series of interviews he gave to gardaí in March 2010 and a phone call he took on July 9th, 2008, from former chief executive of Anglo David Drumm.

The jury had heard Mr FitzPatrick was in the south of France when he took the phone call. He told gardaí Mr Drumm told him the problem they had with the CFDs was going to be solved. He also claimed Mr Drumm was “driving” the deal and he said Mr Drumm told him the financial regulator would be “very happy” with it.

‘Above board’

Mr FitzPatrick told gardaí he thought the deal was “kosher” and “above board”.

He said he asked Mr Drumm if the Maple 10 investors were “people of substance”. He said he wanted to know if they could afford it or if Mr Drumm was “just taking 10 names” that they could “just put at the bottom of credit” and “they’d never pay it back if things went wrong”.

Mr FitzPatrick said he was told no, that they were people of substance.

He also told gardaí that he was not trying to “detach” himself from the bank to save himself from blame. But he “never had any role in relation to the executive” of the bank.

In his direction to the jury, Judge Nolan said in order to find the accused guilty, they needed to decide if there had been lending and if it was in the ordinary course of business. If it was not, they had to decide if the accused men knew about it and did nothing to stop it. He also noted Mr FitzPatrick was “the chairman of the board and not in the office every day”.