Anglo trial: Accountant denies being confused by 'labyrinthine' standards

An accounting expert has denied being confused about “labyrinthine” accounting standards while giving evidence at the trial of four former bankers accused of conspiring to mislead investors.

Four former senior bankers from Anglo Irish Bank and Irish Life and Permanent (ILP) are on trial for allegedly conspiring to mislead investors by setting up a €7.2bn circular transaction scheme to bolster Anglo's 2008 balance sheet.

John Bowe (aged 52) from Glasnevin, Dublin, Willie McAteer (aged 65) of Greenrath, Tipperary Town, Co Tipperary, Denis Casey (aged 56), from Raheny, Dublin and Peter Fitzpatrick (aged 63) of Convent Lane, Portmarnock, Dublin have all pleaded not guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to conspiring together and with others to mislead investors through financial transactions between March 1 and September 30, 2008.

On day 55 of the trial in Dublin Circuit Criminal Court today, Michael O'Higgins SC, defending former Irish Life and Permanent (ILP) CEO Denis Casey, cross-examined Mark Hunt, an expert witness for the State.

Last week, Mr Hunt, a chartered accountant who has worked for the Bank of England and the UK's financial conduct authority, told the jury that the €7.2bn deal had no commercial or economic substance, both of which are technical accounting terms.

Mr Hunt told the court the series of transactions was designed to “move a number on a balance sheet”.

He said the “series of transactions in its entirety” was not covered by an accounting standard known as IAS 32.

Mr O'Higgins suggested Mr Hunt was “confused and made a mistake”.

“I disagree,” Mr Hunt replied.

Mr O'Higgins put it to Mr Hunt that: “These accounting standards are labyrinthine and complex.”

“It's complicated,” Mr Hunt replied. “There's no getting away from the fact it's complicated.”

Earlier, Mr O'Higgins suggested to Mr Hunt that “banks all around the world were falling on their backsides” in September 2008.

“The world had fallen apart,” the barrister said.

“No it hadn't,” Mr Hunt replied. “It's a mischaracterisation to say the world had fallen apart in September 2008.”

The trial continues before Judge Martin Nolan and a jury.

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