Ireland’s bankers in the dock: Anglo Irish chiefs charged with illegally bolstering bank’s share price

It was the bank that nearly broke Ireland. Now a nation holds its breath as its bosses face trial

Dublin

The three bankers stood in the dock of a packed court in Dublin accused of perhaps the biggest white-collar crime ever committed in Ireland, involving loans worth €625m (£519m).

All heads turned to watch the main man in the case, the one-time boss of the now-defunct Anglo Irish Bank, Sean FitzPatrick, whose well-fitting attire and shock of white hair marked him out as he pleaded not guilty.

The Dublin wind and  rain kept the numbers of the public down, but hundreds still turned up for the first day of the biggest criminal trial to take place in the city for many years.

It was standing room only in Court 19 of the Dublin Central Criminal Court, while other spectators were housed in another courtroom designated to hold the overflow.

The atmosphere was not one of high emotion or anger: rather, it was one of intense concentration as onlookers waited to hear the prosecution outline its case.

The three smartly dressed defendants – Mr FitzPatrick along with Pat Whelan and William McAteer, who also served as senior executives at the bank – were placed just across the courtroom from the jury which will decide their fate, but they seemed a world apart. The jurors tended to be casually dressed, none of the men wearing ties.

Since it was acknowledged in court that the issues involved were “a cause of public controversy”, jurors were once again warned that they should not serve if they had publicly expressed strong views for example on the internet or on Facebook.

A list of 100 potential witnesses was read out, including 42 police officers who may be called in a case which is expected to last for months. Jurors were asked to confirm that they did not know any of them.

Pat Whelan, the former Chief Financial Officer of Anglo Irish Bank, arriving at the Circuit Criminal Court in Dublin (PA) Pat Whelan, the former Chief Financial Officer of Anglo Irish Bank, arriving at the Circuit Criminal Court in Dublin (PA)
Then the prosecution began to sketch the background to the charges against what the judge politely described as “the three accused gentlemen”. Each of them faces charges of providing unlawful financial assistance to 16 individuals to enable them to buy shares in the bank.

Paul O’Higgins, the prosecuting counsel, outlined how in 2008 over €600m had been lent by the bank to Sean Quinn, then one of Ireland’s richest businessmen, together with members of his family and others.

This had been done at a time when the Quinn empire was financially fragile, and when rumours had already begun circulating about the health of Anglo. The alleged purpose of the loans had been so that the purchase of Anglo shares would give an impression of stability.

The prosecution case is that this had been done in extraordinary circumstances, was in breach of the Companies Act, and was “ absolutely illegal”.

The three defendants were said to have been involved in the scheme to a greater or lesser degree, or at the very least had known about it and did nothing to stop it.

Counsel for Mr Whelan, who faces additional charges, indicated that he admitted helping to implement the scheme but said he had done so on the understanding that the Irish financial regulator had agreed to it, and that expert legal advice had been received on it.

According to Mr O’Higgins: “This was lending in very extraordinary circumstances which had nothing whatsoever to do with the ordinary course of the bank’s business.”

The prosecution lawyer said the bank was so eager to lend money to borrowers that one was chased down in the south of France.

“A lot of people, if they were on holidays and saw their bank manager, might head for the nearest sand dune,” Mr O’Higgins said.

Addressing the jury, Mr O’Higgins told them that, for the first time ever, 15 jurors would hear the evidence, though at the end of the trial only 12 would be chosen to return a verdict.

New legislation had been passed, he said, to enable larger panels to be chosen in lengthy cases. This was to prevent the risk of a trial collapsing should more than two jurors “get sick or die”.

He told them: “This is the first time that process has occurred in the history of the state. Obviously every one of you may be, and I suppose every one of you, on the balance of chance, will be among the 12 to retire.

“But three won’t – and that may be a very frustrating thing for those who don’t, but maybe it will be a liberating thing for those who do.”

One irony is that the courthouse itself is something of a monument to the moneyed years of the Celtic tiger. It is a soaring futuristic architectural statement of confidence, with transparent lifts gliding smoothly through a high atrium, designed in the days when Ireland was a much more affluent country than it is today.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
Sir David Attenborough
people
Life and Style
Young girl and bowl of cereal
food + drink
News
Comic miserablist Larry David in 'Curb Your Enthusiasm'
peopleDirector of new documentary Misery Loves Comedy reveals how he got them to open up
Arts and Entertainment
Henry VIII played by Damien Lewis
tvReview: Scheming queens-in-waiting, tangled lines of succession and men of lowly birth rising to power – sound familiar?
PROMOTED VIDEO
Sport
football
Arts and Entertainment
'The Archers' has an audience of about five million
radioA growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Ready to open the Baftas, rockers Kasabian are also ‘great film fans’
musicExclusive: Rockers promise an explosive opening to the evening
Life and Style
David Bowie by Duffy
fashion
Arts and Entertainment
Hell, yeah: members of the 369th Infantry arrive back in New York
booksWorld War Z author Max Brooks honours WW1's Harlem Hellfighters in new graphic novel
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
News
advertisingVideo: The company that brought you the 'Bud' 'Weis' 'Er' frogs and 'Wasssssup' ads, has something up its sleeve for Sunday's big match
Arts and Entertainment
tv
News
i100
Environment
Dame Vivienne Westwood speaking at a fracking protest outside Parliament on Monday (AP)
environment
Life and Style
tech
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Ashdown Group: Market Research Executive

£23000 - £26000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Market Research Executive...

Recruitment Genius: Technical Report Writer

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Technical Report Writer is re...

MBDA UK Ltd: Indirect Procurement Category Manager

Competitive salary & benefits!: MBDA UK Ltd: MBDA UK LTD Indirect Procurement...

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer - PHP

£16500 - £16640 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing Finance compa...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee
World War Z author Max Brooks honours WW1's Harlem Hellfighters in new graphic novel

Max Brooks honours Harlem Hellfighters

The author talks about race, legacy and his Will Smith film option to Tim Walker
Why the league system no longer measures up

League system no longer measures up

Jon Coles, former head of standards at the Department of Education, used to be in charge of school performance rankings. He explains how he would reform the system
Valentine's Day cards: 5 best online card shops

Don't leave it to the petrol station: The best online card shops for Valentine's Day

Can't find a card you like on the high street? Try one of these sites for individual, personalised options, whatever your taste
Diego Costa: Devil in blue who upsets defences is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

Devil in blue Costa is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

The Reds are desperately missing Luis Suarez, says Ian Herbert
Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

Former one-day coach says he will ‘observe’ their World Cup games – but ‘won’t be jumping up and down’
Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

Greece elections

In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
Holocaust Memorial Day: Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears

Holocaust Memorial Day

Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears over Europe
Fortitude and the Arctic attraction: Our fascination with the last great wilderness

Magnetic north

The Arctic has always exerted a pull, from Greek myth to new thriller Fortitude. Gerard Gilbert considers what's behind our fascination with the last great wilderness