Quinn assured of health of Anglo by financial regulator and bank, court hears
Witness believed Anglo was a “marvellous institution”
Businessman Seán Quinn, accompanied by his son Seán Quinn jnr, solicitor Niall McPartland and daughter Brenda Quinn, arriving at the Dublin Circuit Criminal Court yesterday, where he gave evidence in the trial of former Anglo Irish Bank directors Seán FitzPatrick, William McAteer and Pat Whelan. Photograph: Eric Luke
Businessman Seán Quinn has said he was assured of the health of Anglo Irish Bank by the financial regulator and by the bank in 2008.
Giving evidence at the trial of former Anglo Irish Bank directors William McAteer, Pat Whelan and Seán FitzPatrick yesterday, Mr Quinn said when he spoke to the regulator at meetings in spring 2008, he “always asked” about the bank’s viability and “always got assurances” that the bank was “strong and well capitalised”.
Mr Fitzpatrick (65) of Greystones, Co Wicklow, Mr McAteer (63) of Rathgar, Dublin, and Mr Whelan (51) of Malahide, Co Dublin, have been charged with 16 counts of providing unlawful financial assistance to 16 individuals in July 2008 to buy shares in the bank, contrary to section 60 of the Companies Act.
Mr Whelan has also been charged with being privy to the fraudulent alteration of loan facility letters to seven individuals.
All three men have pleaded not guilty to the charges.
Mr Quinn told the court he believed Anglo was a “blue- chip Irish bank regulated by the State”.
“I thought it was a marvellous institution,” he said.
He had invested in Anglo through contracts for difference (CFDs) – investment products based on share price – and by September 2007 he had an interest in 24 per cent of the bank’s shares, the court heard.
The family had talked about “putting a toe in the water”, he said, but had ended up with the “whole feet, head and neck” in the water. They didn’t mean to get in so deep, he added.
At a meeting in February 2008 with the financial regulator, Mr Quinn said he believed his CFDs in Anglo were talked about, “but it was very vague”.
He thought the regulator was “doing a fishing exercise”, he said.
Asked by senior counsel Brendan Grehan, for Mr Whelan, about being the richest man in Ireland in 2006, he said he had “read that”. Mr Grehan also pointed out he was the 12th richest in the UK and Britain. Mr Quinn responded he’d forgotten that. “It was never an important criteria for me,” he said.
Counsel continued that Mr Quinn had also been among the 200 richest people in the world in 2006.
“How times can change,” Mr Quinn responded.
He said in 2006 the group had borrowings of €300 million from Anglo and €1.1 billion from a consortium of banks.
At a meeting with chairman of Anglo Seán FitzPatrick and chief executive David Drumm in the Ardboyne Hotel, Navan, in September 2007, Mr Quinn claimed they did not want him to sell his shares.
He said they made it very clear if the shares went on to the market the share price would collapse. They asked “if and when the share price recovered, would I be happy to take the holding to single digits”?
“I said I’d be happy to do that,” Mr Quinn said.
Mr Grehan said at one stage Mr Quinn had nine different brokerage firms all buying CFD positions in Anglo and they had bought the stocks in which the CFDs were leveraged.