Ex-Anglo Irish Bank chief charged on loan offences
FORMER ANGLO Irish Bank chairman Seán FitzPatrick yesterday became the third person to be charged with financial irregularities in the three-year investigation into the collapse of the bank.
The former banker was arrested at Dublin Airport at 5.37am yesterday after returning from the United States and brought to the Bridewell Garda station in Dublin city centre, where he was charged with 16 offences relating to loans provided by Anglo in July 2008.
He is accused of permitting Anglo to provide financial assistance – prohibited under company law – to six members of the family of Fermanagh businessman Seán Quinn and 10 customers of the bank, known as the “Maple 10”, to buy Anglo shares.
The loans were provided as part of an unwinding of a large investment made by Mr Quinn around the bank’s shares to prevent a collapse in the share price that would have undermined confidence in the lender at a time when the banking crisis was deepening.
The 16 offences faced by Mr FitzPatrick are identical to the charges brought against two former Anglo bankers, Willie McAteer and Pat Whelan, who were arrested and charged by detectives on Monday.
Mr FitzPatrick told Det Sgt Brian Mahon of the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement (ODCE) he had “no comment” when each charge was read to him at 8.08am at the Bridewell, before he was driven in a Garda van with other detainees to the Dublin District Court.
Judge Cormac Dunne remanded the 64-year-old banker, of Greystones, Co Wicklow, to appear in court again on October 8th, when a book of evidence will be served and the prosecution will progress towards a trial by jury.
If convicted he faces up to five years in prison on each charge.
Mr FitzPatrick did not speak during the eight-minute court hearing before Judge Dunne at 11.15am.
The accused’s solicitor, Michael Staines, told the court that once Mr FitzPatrick learned gardaí sought him, he arranged to meet them yesterday morning.
The ODCE said in a separate High Court hearing that criminal trials arising from the investigation into Anglo could take a further three years to complete.
Mr Justice Peter Kelly refused a three-year extension to the investigation until the criminal cases had ended, extending it by just six months and saying the inquiry may not progress as quickly as hoped if extended for the longer period.
The judge, who repeated his concerns that the investigation was taking “longer than desirable”, was told the inquiry was essentially complete in four of the five areas under investigation.
Championed as one of the most successful businessmen of the boom, Mr FitzPatrick grew Anglo from a small Dublin bank into the country’s third largest lender, with loans of €73 billion, making annual profits of €1.2 billion on the back of the booming property market.
The banking crisis forced the then government to introduce the bank guarantee in September 2008 to prevent the run on Anglo spreading to the other Irish banks.
Anglo was taken into State ownership in 2009, weeks after the discovery that the bank had concealed multimillion euro loans to Mr FitzPatrick for several years.
The property crash has left the State facing a bill estimated at between €29 billion and €34 billion to cover losses at the bank.