Developer was ‘delighted’ to give ‘helping hand’ to Anglo and buy bank shares
‘I signed whatever documents was put down and I left’, Séamus Ross tells court
Witness Séamus Ross at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court yesterday where he gave evidence in the trial of three former Anglo Irish Bank directors. Picture: Collins Courts.
Developer Séamus Ross, one of the Maple 10 who bought shares in Anglo Irish Bank in 2008, told the Dublin Circuit Criminal Court he was “delighted” to “give a helping hand” to the bank when they asked.
Mr Ross, whose company Menolly Homes built more than 16,000 houses in Ireland, agreed he was a billionaire at the time of the Anglo deal.
The deal involved the Quinn children and 10 businessmen buying shares in Anglo using loans from the bank to help unwind businessman Seán Quinn’s holding in the bank.
Mr Ross told the trial of three former directors of the bank yesterday he was surprised when he was asked to meet Pat Whelan and former chief executive of the bank David Drumm on July 10th or 11th, 2008.
He said he was asked if he would buy shares in the bank and was told about the Quinn CFD holding and that the financial regulator had approved a deal to unwind it.
He told the court he didn’t ask “that many questions”. He thought what he was told was “bad news” and “he didn’t like to hear there was a problem”.
He also said he was surprised the terms involved a loan in his “own personal name”.
Did not vet documents
The meeting didn’t take long, he said, and he agreed to “go ahead and give the helping hand to the bank”.
“I was delighted to do that,” he said. The documents had already been prepared, Mr Ross told the court.
“I signed whatever documents was put down and I left,” he said. He did not vet the documents, he said.
He also told the court that, at the time of the deal, he was fighting a court action that lasted 3½ years related to the presence of pyrite in people’s homes. He said he had “hundreds of people knocking on my door, their houses falling down”.
“This was in the middle of all this, so all I can do from memory is to help you the best I can,” he said.
The court heard there were three facility letters issued for the loans; the first had personal recourse of 25 per cent, meaning when the loan was called in the borrower could be pursued for a quarter of any shortfall; the second had no personal recourse and the third reinstated the 25 per cent.
Asked by Paul O’Higgins SC, for the prosecution, if he understood the recourse on his loan, Mr Ross said he believed it was only to the value of the shares and there was no personal recourse.
Mr Ross agreed with Brendan Grehan SC, for Mr Whelan, that he was a hardworking businessman who drove a hard bargain, but said he was “a nice fella too”.
Mr Grehan suggested Mr Ross had “muddled” in his own mind the different facility letters and chose the one that was best for him.
“Human nature being what it is, of course that’s exactly what happened,” Mr Ross replied.