Anglo verdicts greeted in silence as two never flinched

The two former Anglo bankers could get up to five years in jail and/or a fine

A composite image of former Anglo Irish Bank directors Pat Whelan (left) and Willie McAteer leaving Dublin Circuit Criminal Court after yesterday’s guilty verdicts. Photograph: Eric Luke

A composite image of former Anglo Irish Bank directors Pat Whelan (left) and Willie McAteer leaving Dublin Circuit Criminal Court after yesterday’s guilty verdicts. Photograph: Eric Luke

Fri, Apr 18, 2014, 08:11

As Judge Martin Nolan awaited yesterday’s verdicts, one very interested party kept tabs from a discreet distance. Around the corner from the Dublin Criminal Courts of Justice, parked up in a side street called Montpelier Hill, Seán FitzPatrick sat in his car.

The jury in the case of Pat Whelan and Willie McAteer had retired again following lunch. It was a familiar scenario to FitzPatrick, who shared that same dock the day before with his two former colleagues, only to be cleared of all charges before the afternoon was out. He was a very happy man when he left the building, giving a little speech worthy of an Oscar winner as he thanked his family and his lawyers and his two “special friends”.

Given all that had gone before, one might have expected Seánie to give the area around the courts complex a wide berth.

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Instead, he returned to the scene and waited for the results from the Anglo jury to come in. At one point, he left the vehicle and smoked a cigarette, nervously pacing up and down. He was dressed casually in navy chinos and a lilac sweater, his courtroom suit no longer required.

As it happened, the seven women and five men took less than an hour to return a decision. When word came through that they were ready, the PR man who has accompanied FitzPatrick for much of his time at the trial was there.

Brian Harmon, who is also a lawyer and specialises in strategic communications, was a familiar face to some of the business journalists covering the case. He has acted as spokesman for Denis O’Brien, among others, over the years. Soon after the verdict was read out, he made his way to FitzPatrick’s car and they left.

Minutes earlier, Pat Whelan had left the court, refusing to comment as he walked swiftly past the photographers and up past the turn for Montpelier Hill. The group abandoned him and returned to the steps to catch Willie McAteer as he left.

The verdicts, when they came, were greeted in silence. When the jury indicated its return, it precipitated a mad scramble back to the courtroom by the defendants and their legal teams. Word spreads fast in the courthouse. There was standing room only by the time the forewoman spoke.

The two defendants sat and gazed straight ahead. Did they notice how the jurors, positioned in the box directly opposite them, pointedly avoided looked them in the eye?

“Please answer: Yes or No, have you reached a verdict on any of the remaining counts?”

“Yes.”

There were 16 charges in all. The first concerned a loan to one of the Quinn family. Had an illegal loan been advanced? “Not guilty.” For an instant, there was a discernible flicker of hope from the defendants. But the next 10 counts concerned loans to the so-called Maple 10 “Guilty . . . Guilty . . . Guilty . . . ”

They never flinched, looking numbed, staring into the distance. The list was book-ended with more “not guilty” verdicts on the remaining Quinn family loans, but it scarcely mattered.

Judge Nolan thanked the jurors for their “great service to the community and the country”. The defendants, one-time big players in the finance game, stood before the court and were told they would be sentenced on April 28th. The court rose.