Anglo jury warned: Banking collapse not on trial

Sean FitzPatrick

The jury in the fraud trial of three former bank executives over a €625m loans-for-shares deal in the defunct Anglo Irish Bank has been told Ireland’s banking collapse is not on trial.

Former bankers Sean FitzPatrick (aged 65), Willie McAteer (aged 63) and Pat Whelan (aged 51) have pleaded not guilty to providing unlawful loans for clients to unwind a secret 28% shareholding held by bankrupt tycoon Sean Quinn.

FitzPatrick was yesterday found not guilty, on the direction of the trial judge Martin Nolan, on six charges of providing loans to members of the Quinn family as part of the scheme.

In the first of three submissions from defence lawyers as the lengthy trial draws to a close, Brendan Grehan, senior counsel for Whelan, urged the jury to disregard the wider effects of the banking collapse on Irish society.

He said even five or six years after the crisis the impact on living standards, jobs, wages and special needs and home care is being felt but should not be a factor in deliberations.

“Somebody in the street this morning told me a spectator had come in to court yesterday for the trial, that he said ’you come for a fair trial, give them a fair trial and then hang them’,” he said.

“You are not spectators. You must divorce yourself from that kind of thinking... that you are somehow here to satisfy the baying for blood from the mob.”

Mr Grehan said it was not about the collapse of banks it was about a particular charge under section 60 of Ireland’s Companies Act, for which no-one has ever been convicted.

He told the jury to decide it “devoid of pressures from outside the courtroom”.

Mr Quinn owned 28% of Anglo’s shares in 2008 following an audacious and doomed €2.4bn gamble using supposedly hidden trading derivatives, Contracts for Difference (CfD).

The prosecution claims Anglo arranged €625m of loans for clients in July 2008 to buy up the stake and prevent hedge funds from betting against the share price recovering.

Ultimately it never did. FitzPatrick faces 10 charges in relation to loans given to a select group of investors, longstanding clients of Anglo known as the Maple 10.

Whelan and McAteer face 16 charges, including the loans to the Maple 10 and six loans to members of the Quinn family. All three men are on bail.

Earlier, as the prosecution closed its case, the jury heard the plot to unwind the secret Quinn shareholding was topsy turvy and paperwork was bogus.

“Almost everything about this scheme made it a scheme obviously and spectacularly not in the ordinary course of business,” senior counsel Paul O’Higgins said.

“What the prosecution says in this case was that everything was topsy turvy.

“A lot of what was put out in the documentation was bogus.”

Whelan was yesterday found not guilty on seven separate charges of being privy to the fraudulent alteration of loan facility letters to seven individuals in October 2008.

The trial, now in its 10th week and with a larger than usual jury due its duration, centres on whether the 625m euro (£515m) of loans made by Anglo to buy the Quinn CfDs were in the ordinary course of business.

It is expected to wrap up in the coming days.

FitzPatrick, of Whitshed Road, Greystones, Co Wicklow, McAteer, of Auburn Villas, Rathgar, south Dublin, and Whelan, of Coast Road, Malahide, Co Dublin, are on bail.

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