Three bankers on trial in Dublin over crash that brought Ireland to its knees

Former executives accused in Dublin of providing illegal loans worth €450 during ‘Celtic Tiger’ boom 

Three prominent bankers go on trial this week in one of the biggest prosecutions ever mounted in an Irish court, arising from the country’s disastrous financial crash. The hearings in Dublin will be the first of a number of legal sequels to the 2008 crisis which brought the economy and political system to the brink of catastrophic collapse.

The three men face charges centring on alleged loans of €450m (£373m) said to have been arranged during Ireland’s “Celtic Tiger” years. The 2008 crash plunged the Republic into a near-nightmare era of harsh austerity measures which brought high unemployment, severe spending cuts and a wave of emigration of young people to Australia, the US and elsewhere.

It also led to huge political changes which saw Fianna Fail, traditionally the largest political party, swept from power and decimated. Since then the economy has improved, with today’s Dublin government arguing that the country has turned the corner, but more lean years clearly lie ahead.

The three executives who will go on trial at the Criminal Courts of Justice were at the head of the now defunct Anglo Irish Bank, which was at the heart of the financial crisis. They are its former chairman and chief executive Sean FitzPatrick, the former finance director Willie McAteer and Pat Whelan, the former chief financial officer.

Both before and after the crash Mr FitzPatrick has been one of Dublin’s most high-profile bankers. He was declared bankrupt in 2012.

The three face 16 charges under the Companies Act of providing unlawful financial assistance to individuals for the purpose of buying shares in the bank. Mr Whelan also faces seven additional charges of altering loan documentation. They have pleaded not guilty on all counts.

The case, which has been in preparation for years, is expected to last between three and six months, involving 24 million documents and 800 witness statements. Interest in it is so intense that special measures have been taken to allow the public access to the court, while the judge has issued detailed warnings to the jury.

In recognition of the emotions generated by the crash, the judge warned potential jurors that they should not serve if they had such strong views about the bank that they felt they could not deal with matters fairly. They should also not serve, he said, if they had expressed strong views either publicly or on the internet or on Facebook. Reading out a list of potential witnesses, who included bankers and businessmen, he said anyone who knew any of them should not serve on the jury.

They should also exclude themselves if they had worked for Anglo Irish Bank or had held shares in a bank. The judge further warned “in the strongest possible terms” that they should not investigate relevant matters on the internet or in periodicals.

Three extra reserve jurors have been selected in case original jurors are unable to continue in what could become the longest criminal trial in the country’s history. Due to the extreme complexity of the case jurors will be supplied with laptops partly because the courtroom, though the largest available, would be swamped by the scores of large boxes which would be needed to hold the millions of docuents.

Demand for seats is so high that a nearby courtroom is to be used as an overflow viewing room with a video link.

Although this week’s trial is the first involving senior financial figures relating to the banking crash, it may not be the last since detailed investigations are continuing into other aspects of the collapse. When a judge commented recently that some inquiries were continuing “at a rather slow pace” he was told that investigations could take several years to complete.

The Irish parliament is meanwhile to conduct an inquiry into the collapse. Ministers have said it can begin preliminary work but should not examine witnesses while Anglo Irish Bank issues are before the courts.

In the general election which followed the crash much of the party political furniture was drastically re-arranged, with the shredding of the Fianna Fail vote leading to significant gains for other parties and groupings such as Sinn Fein and Independents.

This is taken as an unmistakeable sign that since the crash many voters continue to hold much of the political and financial establishment in low regard. Such sentiment has been if anything sharpened in recent times by a series of revelations which have led many to complain that the pain of austerity has not been shared equally throughout society.

There has been anger at disclosures that some in the higher reaches of public life, including official bodies, have been receiving very substantial salaries, pensions and benefits. There has been particular public indignation that some such money was apparently originally intended for charity.

In December, the Taoiseach, Enda Kenny, gave a televised address saying that Ireland’s “good name and credibility” had been restored since the country had met its obligations under the the rescue operation put in place by international institutions.

Mr Kenny vowed that Ireland’s stability would never again “be threatened by speculation and greed”. He said: “This is an important step but it is not an end in itself. Our lives won’t change overnight. But it does send out a powerful signal internationally that Ireland is fighting back, that the spirit of our people is as strong as ever.”

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksA celebration of British elections
  • Get to the point
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 General

Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Development) - Kingston

£45000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Dev...

Ashdown Group: Editor-in-chief - Financial Services - City, London

£60000 - £70000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Ashdown Group: Junior Application Support Analyst - Fluent German Speaker

£25000 - £30000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: A global leader operating...

Ashdown Group: Accountant - London - £48,000 - 12 month FTC

£40000 - £48000 per annum + bonus + benefits: Ashdown Group: International Acc...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'
Sarah Lucas is the perfect artist to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale

Flesh in Venice

Sarah Lucas has filled the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale with slinky cats and casts of her female friends' private parts. It makes you proud to be a woman, says Karen Wright
11 best anti-ageing day creams

11 best anti-ageing day creams

Slow down the ageing process with one of these high-performance, hardworking anti-agers
Juventus 2 Real Madrid 1: Five things we learnt, including Iker Casillas is past it and Carlos Tevez remains effective

Juventus vs Real Madrid

Five things we learnt from the Italian's Champions League first leg win over the Spanish giants
Ashes 2015: Test series looks a lost cause for England... whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket

Ashes series looks a lost cause for England...

Whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket, says Stephen Brenkley
Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power