Former Anglo director questioned

 

Gardaí are continuing to question former Anglo Irish Bank finance director Willie McAteer in relation to alleged financial irregularities at the bank after obtaining an extension to his detention this evening.

Mr McAteer was arrested at his home in Rathgar, south Dublin, at 6.30am today and taken for questioning to Irishtown Garda station in Dublin’s south inner city.

He was arrested under Section 4 of the Criminal Justice Act and can be held for up to 24 hours without charge. He remained in custody this evening after his period of detention was extended by 12 hours.

Mr McAteer was arrested by members of the Garda Bureau of Fraud Investigation, the specialist unit investigating practices and alleged irregularities at Anglo.

Detectives from the unit were granted a search warrant by the courts in recent days to search Mr McAteer’s home and that warrant was executed this morning during the surprise Garda operation. Mr McAteer was arrested as the search, which is continuing, was underway.

The arrest of the 59-year-old, who was also formerly the chief risk officer at Anglo, is the second high profile arrest of former Anglo senior figures and follows the detention of the bank’s former chairman Sean FitzPatrick last week.

Mr FitzPatrick was questioned about the transfer of €7.45 billion in deposits by Irish Life Permanent (ILP) over Anglo’s 2008 year-end period.

It is anticipated Mr McAteer will also be questioned about that issue during his period of detention.

Gardaí are also investigating directors’ loans at the bank. Mr McAteer was one of a number of directors to have been loaned substantial sums.

In March of last year he had a loan of €8 million owing to Anglo. The loan is secured on Anglo shares, which are effectively worthless following the bank’s nationalisation.

Mr McAteer’s loan was originally “non-recourse”, meaning it was secured only on the shares, but the loan was later changed to a full personal recourse basis.

Minister for Finance Brian Lenihan said today: “I've made it very clear that I don't want to say anything that would prejudice an eventual prosecution when a file is submitted to the DPP.”

“Clearly justice has to take its course here. I've always pointed out that the Garda investigation here and the investigation conducted by the Office of Corporate Enforcement is wide ranging and comprehensive."

Mr McAteer resigned just over 12 months ago after it emerged that Mr FitzPatrick had concealed his loans with Anglo over eight years in an arrangement with Irish Nationwide Building Society.

At the end of 2008 Mr McAteer had more shares in Anglo, at 3.5 million, than any other member of the board apart from Mr FitzPatrick.

As well as the €7.45 billion short term deposits into Anglo from Irish Life Permanent and directors' loans at the bank, the Garda, Director of Corporate Enforcement and the regulator are also investigating the secret sale of a 10 per cent stake in the bank to a group of 10 customers with Anglo loans.

Mr FitzPatrick was released from Garda custody without charge last week after being questioned for 24 hours.

Garda sources told The Irish Times at that time that further arrests were anticipated and that a Garda file would not be sent to the DPP on any aspect of the Anglo case until further comprehensive investigations had been carried out.

Mr McAteer’s arrest this morning, which was anticipated, forms part of those wider inquiries. A number of further high profile arrests are anticipated.