When Anglo Irish Bank was making a return to Revenue in 2003 related to non-resident accounts, former chairman Sean FitzPatrick raised concerns about an account held by "Denis O'Brien", the trial of three former bank officials has been told.
Brian Gillespie, former head of compliance at Anglo, said Mr FitzPatrick was concerned about Mr O'Brien, whom he referred to as "my mate Denis". But Mr Gillespie reassured him it was not the same Mr O'Brien.
“I didn’t believe, I do not believe for a second, it was anything to do with the Denis O’Brien most people have in their minds,” he said.
“It was a different individual who genuinely was a non-resident in the UK.”
Cross-examining, Brendan Grehan SC, for Tiarnan O’Mahoney, asked Mr Gillespie what Mr FitzPatrick’s response was to his reassurance.
“He described me as a bit naive,” Mr Gillespie responded.
Aoife Maguire (60) of Rothe Abbey, South Circular Road, Kilmainham, Dublin, Bernard Daly (65) of Collins Avenue West, Whitehall, Dublin and Mr O'Mahoney (54) of Glen Pines, Enniskerry, Co Wicklow have been charged with trying to hide accounts, connected to the former chairman of the bank, Sean FitzPatrick, from Revenue between March 2003 and December 2004.
They have pleaded not guilty.
Mr Gillespie was involved with a team preparing a list of non-resident accounts to be sent to Revenue as part of a High Court order in 2003. He was removed from the team before the list was sent, the court has been told.
Under cross-examination, Mr Gillespie detailed three meetings he had in the office of Mr FitzPatrick in and around May 2003. He agreed with Mr Grehan that the meetings were held after Revenue obtained the High Court order and before the information was provided.
He said the meetings involved just the two of them. On the first occasion he did not know what was going to be discussed. He said Mr FitzPatrick was querying why accounts held by his brother-in-law John Peter O’Toole were being included in the return to revenue. He said he was aware Mr FitzPatrick was concerned about a relative being reported to Revenue and he was “protective of family members in a normal way”.
He said Mr FitzPatrick gave him a potted history and said Mr O'Toole had lived in the UK and now lived in Australia and was "supporting his mother".
Mr Gillespie said he explained the list being sent was not a list of bogus non-resident accounts, it was a list of accounts that fitted the criteria laid down in the High Court order.
A week or 10 days later, he was summoned to Mr FitzPatrick’s office again.
“Round two, so to speak?” Mr Grehan suggested.
“I didn’t see it as a boxing match,” Mr Gillespie responded, to laughter in the court.
He said on this occasion, Mr FitzPatrick told him of a conversation with a director of the bank, Peter Killen. Mr FitzPatrick said Mr Killeen told him "just tell Brian to delete the account".
Asked by Mr Grehan if he got a chance to respond to the comment, Mr Gillespie said he did not have the opportunity; it was “part of a monologue”.
He said at the end, he reminded Mr FitzPatrick of the High Court order and said they had no choice but to comply. He said the meeting was inconclusive.
“How do you know when to leave?” Mr Grehan asked.
“As soon as you get an opportunity,” Mr Gillespie answered.
Mr Gillespie said, at a third meeting a week or 10 days later, Mr FitzPatrick told him again he was concerned.
“He said he didn’t mind telling me he was losing sleep over it,” he said.
Mr FitzPatrick repeated that he had a conversation with Mr Killen, but on this occasion, said he told Mr Killen “I should just tell Brian to delete the account”. Mr Gillespie said it crossed his mind at the time if the conversation had taken place at all or whether Mr FitzPatrick was confused.
“At no time did he ask me to delete the account ... but if I was to find it within myself not to report the account he would be greatly pleased,” Mr Gillespie said.
He said there was no way he was going to leave it out of the court order.
Mr Grehan suggested Mr FitzPatrick was “putting the burden” on his shoulders.
“He didn’t instruct me ... it was clear what he wanted,” Mr Gillespie responded.
He also agreed with Mr Grehan that Mr FitzPatrick had mentioned that he wanted Mr Gillespie to be comfortable with his actions in case he was ever part of a tribunal. And it was also at this meeting that Mr FitzPatrick raised concerns about Mr O’Brien.
Asked by Sean Guerin SC, for Mr Daly, if Mr FitzPatrick was a man who was used to getting his way, Mr Gillespie said that was fair.
Mr Guerin highlighted a note made by revenue of a meeting between revenue officials and Mr Gillespie and a colleague, on February 21st, 2002, to discuss non-resident accounts, ahead of the 2003 audit.
The note said “it was stated Anglo only had manual records available for 1990 and 1995”. It also said revenue was “told clearly” there were no records for “Ansbacher and Smurfit”.
Mr Gillespie said he did not accept the note was an accurate recording of what was said. Mr Guerin suggested Mr Gillespie was a party to obstructing revenue in their work by falsely representing records.
“No, it’s not true,” Mr Gillespie answered.
Mr Gillespie accepted that a list sent to revenue on June 30th, 2003, as part of the High Court order, did not include Mr O’Toole’s account. It was not supplied until November 2003.
Mr Gillespie said he did not make the decision to remove the account from the first list supplied to revenue. He said he was told not to return it until he got the say-so.
Mr Guerin asked him if he accepted he was in breach of the court order. He said he was trying to comply and the revenue was “very relaxed” about the timing of the return. Mr Guerin quoted from the first charge brought against his client, to “knowingly and wilfully furnish information to revenue that was not correct” and said this was what Mr Gillespie had done.
“That is not a characterisation I would agree with,” Mr Gillespie said.
Under re-examination by Dominic McGinn, for the prosecution, Mr Gillespie said he was doing everything to make sure the account was returned on the June 30th list, but was instructed not to do so.
“Who gave you that instruction?” Mr McGinn asked. “Tiarnan O’Mahoney,” Mr Gillespie responded.
The case, before Judge Patrick Ms Cartan, was adjourned until Friday.