Fitzpatrick common thread in prosecution of ex-Anglo officials

Charges relate to allegedly trying to hide accounts connected to former chairman

 

In the late 1990s and early 2000s, Revenue was seeking payment of Deposit Interest Retention Tax (Dirt) on accounts designated non-resident that were in fact held by Irish residents. They contacted the banks for lists of non-resident accounts. Anglo Irish Bank told them it had none.

But when a Dirt amnesty followed, several Anglo accountholders came forward. Revenue followed up with a High Court order requiring the bank to provide data on non-resident accounts.

Seán FitzPatrick, who at the time was chief executive of the bank, allegedly expressed a wish that details of some non-resident accounts not be supplied to Revenue. What happened afterwards has led to a trial of three former senior bank officials, now in its fifth week of evidence.

Aoife Maguire (63) of Rothe Abbey, South Circular Road, Kilmainham, Dublin; Bernard Daly (67) of Collins Avenue West, Whitehall, Dublin; and Tiarnan O’Mahoney (56) of Glen Pines, Enniskerry, Co Wicklow face charges for allegedly trying to hide accounts connected to Mr FitzPatrick from Revenue, between March 2003 and 2004.

They have pleaded not guilty.

All three are accused of conspiring to destroy, mutilate or falsify documents relating to accounts of Mr FitzPatrick’s brother-in-law, John Peter O’Toole.

Conspiring

Mr Daly, former company secretary, and Mr O’Mahoney, chief operations officer, are accused of furnishing a list of bank accounts in connection with tax that did not include Mr O’Toole’s.

Ms Maguire and Mr O’Mahoney are accused of conspiring to destroy the records of six accounts and to defraud Revenue. The six accounts were listed in court as Lock Ltd/Suzie Ltd, Carnahalla Ltd/Suzie Ltd, Lock Ltd, Carnahalla Ltd, Triumvirate Properties Ltd and Sean FitzPatrick Trust/Crohan O’Shea Trust.

Opening the prosecution case in June, Dominic McGinn SC told the jury of six men and six women: “To a greater or lesser extent, Seán FitzPatrick has involvement in this case.”

He said a team was set up in 2003 to comply with the Revenue’s High Court order seeking details of non-resident accounts. It was led by Mr Daly. Mr O’Mahoney was involved in a supervisory role and he appointed Ms Maguire to the team to report directly to him and to influence team members, Mr McGinn said.

Brian Gillespie, former head of compliance at Anglo, was part of that team. He gave evidence, on July 6th, of a series of meetings he had with Mr FitzPatrick in and around May 2003.

On the first occasion, Mr FitzPatrick queried why accounts held by Mr O’Toole were being included in the return to Revenue.

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 fit the criteria laid down in the High Court order.

A week or 10 days later, he was summoned to Mr FitzPatrick’s office again. On this occasion, Mr Gillespie said, 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.”

Mr Gillespie said he reminded Mr FitzPatrick of the High Court order and said they had no choice but to comply.

At a third meeting, the subject was raised again. “He said he didn’t mind telling me he was losing sleep over it,” Mr Gillespie said.

Delete

He alleged 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.”

“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.

He also gave evidence that Mr FitzPatrick raised concerns about an account held by a “Denis O’Brien”, and referred to “my mate Denis”. Mr Gillespie reassured him it was not the well-known businessman, but was “a different individual who genuinely was a non-resident in the UK”.

He said Mr FitzPatrick described him as “a bit naive”.

Mr Gillespie also told the court Mr O’Mahoney instructed him not to include the O’Toole account to Revenue until he gave him “the say-so”. It was excluded from a list in June 2003 and not sent until November.

He said Mr Daly asked him if he would delete an account if asked to by Mr FitzPatrick and he told him no.

“It was a brief conversation; his reaction was more or less that I wouldn’t be needed,” Mr Gillespie said.

Zita Vance, a former senior manager at Anglo, who was another member of the team dealing with the High Court order, also claimed Mr O’Mahoney asked her to remove a name from the list going to Revenue. She couldn’t remember the name, she said, and later told Mr O’Mahoney she couldn’t carry out the request. She was told she was no longer part of the project, she said.

Brendan Grehan SC, for Mr O’Mahoney, said his client had no recollection of the conversations and didn’t think he would have said those things.

James Shaw, an associate director at the bank’s IT department, gave evidence that he and a colleague, Shay McGill, made a decision to archive accounts after Ms Maguire had asked them to delete them in 2003.

Asked by Patrick Gageby SC, for Ms Maguire, if he recalled his client mentioning Sean FitzPatrick during their discussion, he said he did. Asked if he ever queried the request with his direct boss, Mike Campbell, he said he didn’t.

“Was that because this was an order from on high?” Mr Gageby asked.

“Yes, that was my understanding,” Mr Shaw responded.

Early in the trial, Patrick Peake, who was head of fraud prevention at Anglo, gave extensive evidence about an investigation he carried out in 2010, after Anglo was nationalised, into the alleged deletion of accounts from the bank’s core banking system.

He was taken through documents and computer system screen shots over the course of two weeks. Among many of the transactions raised with him was evidence of transfers from accounts connected to Mr FitzPatrick into staff loan accounts at the end of September 1998, 1999 and 2000 and out again in early October each year.

Disappeared

He also gave evidence that the origin of a payment to an account of Triumvirate Properties Ltd “disappeared” from the bank’s core banking system some time between February 2003 and August 2010.

And he told the court he examined details relating to an account called “The Seán FitzPatrick Trust and the Crohan O’Shea Trust”. He said someone with the username “AM1” made changes to the account details. He said “AM1” was the login for Ms Maguire.

Other changes were made by user MC9, a code used by the IT department, he said. The head of IT, Mike Campbell, told the court this week that MC9 was an access code solely for IT and should not have been used to change an address on an account in the name of Mr O’Toole.

He said he was never asked by anyone to delete bank accounts.

The trial also heard evidence from Monica Kearney, who was personal assistant to Mr FitzPatrick in 2003. She said he had poor computer skills so she sent and received his emails.

She identified an email she sent to Mr O’Mahoney in November 2003 detailing four account numbers. She said she sent this on behalf of Mr FitzPatrick and that he often asked her to send such messages.

The case continues. The prosecution has said it expects to finish its case next Monday.

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