Gardaí examining actions of former financial regulator Neary

Sources stress inquiries related to bank collapse are ‘not an investigation’

Former regulator Patrick Neary. Photograph: Bryan O’Brien/The Irish Times

Former regulator Patrick Neary. Photograph: Bryan O’Brien/The Irish Times

 

Garda headquarters is examining the actions of former financial regulator Patrick Neary around the time of the banking collapse.

The examination, which is being led by a senior officer, will determine if Mr Neary will face a criminal investigation.

However, informed sources stressed that Mr Neary is not under any investigation at this time.

“It’s an examination of information and events that have entered the public domain and that’s all it is; it is not an investigation,” said one source.

Assistant Commissioner Derek Byrne, the senior officer in charge of all of the specialist units in the Garda, is leading the examination in conjunction with the force’s head of legal affairs Kenneth Ruane.

The examination came to light after Lucinda Creighton TD wrote to acting Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan asking if the Garda was investigating Mr Neary in light of comments made by Judge Martin Nolan at the conclusion of the recent trial of former senior executives in Anglo Irish Bank.

Ms Creighton asked for clarity on whether Mr Neary was being investigated for possible breaches of the Companies Act following the remarks by the judge that two executives convicted by the court had been led into illegality by the State.

The reply received by Ms Creighton does not offer any timeline for the conclusion of the examination, though Ms Creighton is assured she will be kept informed in that regard.

In mid April, two former directors of Anglo Irish Bank William McAteer and Pat Whelan were found guilty of providing unlawful financial assistance to buy shares in the bank to 10 businessmen at the Dublin Circuit Criminal Court.

They were spared a prison sentence because of the actions of the office of the financial regulator in the events the criminal charges related to.

“It would be most unjust to jail these two men when I feel that a State agency had led the two men into error and illegality,” Judge Nolan said.

He added he was satisfied then regulator Mr Neary, who had “limited recall”, nonetheless knew of the general situation regarding Anglo’s efforts to unwind Sean Quinn’s stake in the bank by selling it to the so-called Maple 10.

Both Mr Neary and Con Horan, prudential director at the regulator’s office, “must have known” the bank intended lending to buy its shares by March 2008, when an initial deal was tabled, and it seemed “incredible” that “red lights didn’t go off somewhere in the regulator’s office,” Judge Nolan said.

“It seems Mr Horan and Mr Neary were more anxious to solve the problem than to comply with the technicality of the law”.

By not warning Anglo they gave “a green light to lending”, he said. Either the regulator didn’t know it was a breach of section 60 of the Companies Act or he “chose to disregard it”.

McAteer (63) of Rathgar, Dublin, and Whelan (52) of Malahide, Dublin, were found guilty of 10 counts of providing unlawful financial assistance to 10 individuals, the Maple 10, in July 2008 to buy shares in the bank, contrary to section 60 of the Companies Act.

McAteer and Whelan were found not guilty of six counts of providing unlawful financial assistance to six members of the Quinn family.

Former chairman of the bank Seán FitzPatrick (65) of Greystones, Co Wicklow, was acquitted of all allegations brought against him. And additional charges against Whelan related to the fraudulent alteration of loan facility letters were dropped on the direction of the judge earlier in the trial.