Jury finds Seán FitzPatrick not guilty on all counts
Jury still considering case against two other former Anglo Irish Bank executives
The former chairman of Anglo Irish Bank, Seán FitzPatrick, making a statement outside the Dublin Circuit Criminal Court following his acquittal. Photograph: Eric Luke
The jury at the Anglo Irish Bank trial has returned not guilty verdicts on all charges against the bank’s former chairman Seán FitzPatrick.
Judge Martin Nolan told Mr FitzPatrick he was free to go after the jury of seven women and five men acquitted him on all counts of providing unlawful financial assistance to the so-called Maple 10 businessmen to buy Anglo shares in July 2008. The jury had been deliberating for more than 13 hours.
Mr Fitzpatrick (65) smiled as the verdicts were read out in the silent, crowded courtroom. Leaning forward in the dock, his hands visibly shaking, he listened intently as the foreman of the jury confirmed not guilty verdicts on all 10 charges he was facing. He then embraced his family and shook hands with his legal team.
In a short statement outside the courts complex, he thanked his family, friends and lawyers and asked for privacy. “I would like also especially like to thank the women and men of the jury who found me not guilty of all charges,” he added.
In separate proceedings, Mr FitzPatrick is due to stand trial in October on charges of failing to make disclosures to the bank’s auditors about loans he received. He faces 12 counts of failing to disclose to auditors Ernst & Young the true value of loans worth at least €139 million given to him or people connected to him, by Irish Nationwide Building Society from 2002 to 2007 while he was an officer of the bank.
Yesterday’s acquittals came after 11 weeks of evidence and testimony from 54 witnesses. The verdicts were arrived at by majority and were given after three full days of deliberations.
The jury has yet to decide on the allegations facing former Anglo directors William McAteer (63), Rathgar, Dublin, and Pat Whelan (51), Malahide, Co Dublin. 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 the wife and five children of businessman Seán Quinn.
Although Mr FitzPatrick had originally faced charges in relation to the Quinn loans, the judge had directed that he be found not guilty of these at an earlier stage in the case.
The trial centred on a deal to unwind Mr Quinn’s 28 per cent stake in Anglo, which he held through CFDs, contracts for difference – high-risk investment products that involve betting on the performance of a share. At the time, the bank believed Mr Quinn’s holding was destabilising its share price and feared a disorderly unwind of his stake.
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 another 15 per cent. The Maple 10 borrowed €45 million each while the Quinns were loaned €169 million.
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.
Over the course of five interviews, Mr FitzPatrick told gardaí that he was aware the bank would be lending money to the Maple 10 before the transaction went through. He told investigators he was in the south of France when Anglo chief executive David Drumm called him on July 9th, 2008, and said they had a solution to the Quinn problem. He said the chief executive told him they were going to get 10 customers and lend them money to buy the shares.
Mr FitzPatrick said Mr Drumm did not tell him the names of the Maple 10 or the lending terms. He did not have a problem with the deal and that he had been assured by Mr Drumm that it was “kosher” and “above board”.
Mr FitzPatrick said he assumed Mr Drumm informed the Financial Regulator about the deal, as the regulator had been kept up to date on all developments to that point.