Anglo Irish executives face trial in Dublin

Former chairman, former finance director and former chief financial officer face a total of 16 charges

One of the biggest trials in Irish legal history begins today when three former bankers face charges of trying to inflate the share price of the now-defunct lender Anglo Irish Bank.

Sean FitzPatrick, the former chairman and one-time chief executive, former finance director Willie McAteer and former chief financial officer Pat Whelan face a total of 16 charges.

The charges are linked to alleged loans of 451 million euro (£350 million) to the family of bankrupt former billionaire Sean Quinn, including his wife Patricia and son Sean junior, and a golden circle of 10 clients hand-picked to invest in stock to prop up the share price.

Anglo Irish Bank's share price collapsed in 2008 and a secret stock market gamble by Mr Quinn unravelled. The one-time tycoon had quietly built up a 25% stake in the bank using contracts for difference - a trade deal to shield the true identity of the buyer. The deals allow investors to gamble in the hope a share price rises and reap huge gains. If the value goes south, however, the investor is liable for massive losses.

Anglo's share price reached an all-time high of 17.53 euro (£14.41) in 2007, but later that year the credit crunch began to bite and rumours spread in financial circles that Anglo was in trouble.

The bank was ultimately nationalised in January 2009. The Irish government stepped in following commitments made the previous September under the bank guarantee scheme and the bailout cost 29 billion euro (£24 billion). Anglo was subsequently rebranded the Irish Bank Resolution Corporation and then liquidated last year.

The three men are due before court 19 of the Criminal Courts of Justice in Dublin for a trial that is expected to last four months - one of the longest-running criminal trials in Irish history.

FitzPatrick, 64, McAteer, 62, and Whelan, 50, have been charged with 16 counts of providing unlawful financial assistance to individuals in July 2008 to buy shares in the bank.

The maximum sentence for each offence is five years in jail, with the lower end of the sentencing scale a fine of 3,100 euro (£2,500).

All three entered not guilty pleas last Friday.

Additional reporting agencies

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