Judge to rule on Sean Fitzpatrick costs later this month
A judge will rule later this month on whether the State must reimburse all or some of the legal costs of former Anglo Irish Bank chairman Sean Fitzpatrick arising from his recent criminal trial.
Mr Fitzpatrick, who did not attend the hearing, was acquitted last March of engaging in an illegal share support scheme. His fellow Anglo directors Pat Whelan and William McAteer were convicted on 10 counts of providing illegal loans to the group of investors known as the Maple Ten to prop up the Anglo share price.
Mr Fitzpatrick’s counsel, Michael O’Higgins SC, said that he is seeking the entire costs arising from the 48-day trial. The defence team comprised of a two junior and one senior counsel as well a solicitor. Mr O’Higgins described the legal bill as “enormous” but did not specify a figure.
Counsel asked where the justice would be “in letting Mr FitzPatrick leave the courtroom with his pockets bulging with a huge legal bill.”
Judge Martin Nolan said he will give his decision on June 23.
Mr O’Higgins said the case against Mr FitzPatrick was based solely on his answers in interview. He said he co-operated fully with investigators and answered all questions fully.
Mr O’Higgins said Mr FitzPatrick’s legal team facilitated the prosecution in every way possible and “made all possible concessions” which considerably shortened the length of the trial.
He said that the case against his client was “extremely thin” and based on two answers he gave during his garda interviews. Mr O’Higgins said the Director of Public Prosecutions is entitled to bring extremely thin cases but “is not entitled to expect the citizen to carry the can” when those cases fail.
Responding for the State, Paul O’Higgins SC, questioned whether Mr FitzPatrick, who was an undischarged bankrupt during the trial, was even liable for his legal costs.
He said that a requirement for the granting of costs is that the defendant actually had to bear those costs.
Counsel said that it is reasonable to expect Mr Fitzpatrick’s lawyers did not go unpaid during the trial. He questioned whether the former chairman could have paid them as an undischarged bankrupt.
Therefore, he said, there is a question as to whether Mr Fitzpatrick is under a legal liability for costs.
Mr O’Higgins added that costs should not be awarded because of the public interest in bringing the prosecution.
“For this reason the appropriate order is that there should be no order (for costs).”
The three bankers were charged at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court with 16 counts of providing unlawful financial assistance to 16 individuals in July 2008 to buy shares in the bank. The borrowers comprised of six members of Sean Quinn’s family and the Maple Ten group of investors.
Whelan also was charged with being privy to the fraudulent alteration of loan facility letters to seven individuals in October 2008.
Whelan and McAteer were convicted of providing the Maple Ten loans but acquitted of providing loans the Quinn family. Whelan was acquitted on the charges relating to the loan facility letters while Mr FitzPatrick was acquitted of all charges.
Mr FitzPatrick (aged 65) of Greystones, Co Wicklow, McAteer (aged 63) of Rathgar, Dublin and Whelan (aged 52) of Malahide, Dublin denied all charges.
The Maple Ten transaction arose because of the need to unwind businessman Sean Quinn’s 29.4 per cent control of the bank which was destabilising the Anglo share price.
Mr Fitzpatrick’s counsel also pointed out that, out of all the non-executive directors at Anglo, his client was the only one who was arrested, interviewed and prosecuted. He said other non-executives were allowed give their statements through a corporate solicitor.
He said there could be fewer people more entitled to his costs than Mr Fitzpatrick, given how he dealt with the case. He said his client has been “fully vindicated” and that his request for his costs is “unanswerable”.
Counsel for the State said the DPP rejected “absolutely” that Mr Fitzpatrick was chosen for prosecution “because he was the public face of Anglo”.
“The director is anxious to reject that suggestion the clearest possible terms,” he said.
The court heard that the amount of the costs will be decided by the County Registrar