Low-key start to high profile case


IT WAS a low-key occasion in Court One of the Criminal Courts of Justice in Dublin when the first person to be charged in the State’s Anglo Irish Bank investigation appeared in court yesterday.

The bank’s former finance director Willie McAteer (61) looked downwards and sat with his hands on his lap for much of the 15-minute hearing at lunchtime. He was dressed casually in a blue and pink striped shirt and with a dark suit jacket.

Three hours earlier he had been arrested by gardaí on the N7 road at Rathcoole, Det Sgt Catharina Gunne of the fraud squad told Judge Cormac Dunne.

The balding former Anglo executive rarely looked up through his glasses to the watching gallery of the courtroom.

The half-empty gallery of 20 to 30 people consisted of sharply dressed and uniformed officials from the Garda Bureau of Fraud Investigation and the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement, as well as the hastily assembled media contingent.

Mr McAteer’s wife Maria also sat silently in the gallery wearing a light grey suit and light-coloured shirt, with a young man sitting beside her.

Judge Dunne refused to make weekly sign-in at Rathmines Garda station a condition of the bail. He asked whether Mr McAteer was a flight risk. The request for the condition was just in relation to the gravity of the charges, Det Sgt Gunne said.

Mrs McAteer quietly handed her husband’s passport in to court during proceedings, one of the conditions of his bail. She kissed her husband on the cheek in the hallway outside the court after bail was secured during a second sitting of the court. Mr McAteer emerged at about 2.30pm.

A group of suited officials and uniformed gardaí flanked the couple as they emerged to a large number of photographers on the steps of the courts complex.

They walked purposefully towards a waiting black taxi and said nothing to reporters.

Minutes after Mr McAteer left the complex, his former colleague Patrick Whelan (50) entered the same courtroom. Smartly dressed in a dark suit with an open-neck blue shirt, the tanned former managing director of Anglo’s Irish operations entered the dock. His wife Sharon Whelan sat in the gallery.

Unlike his former Anglo colleague, Mr Whelan was not ordered to surrender his passport. He was “over and back” to London throughout the week, defence solicitor Michael Staines said, as he asked for an exception for the UK to be made in the condition that he notify gardaí of travel. During the hearing Mrs Whelan approached the bench to sign documents to secure his bail. She left on her own in a waiting taxi. A small group of officials and detectives flanked Mr Whelan as he emerged from the court. He was accompanied by his solicitor and got into a waiting taxi. He did not speak to reporters.