Anglo banker faces jail for defying Dáil probe as trial blocks execs from hearing
Published 15/07/2015 | 02:30
A former Anglo Irish Bank executive faces the prospect of jail after he was reported to gardai by the Banking Inquiry.
The failed bank's former head of lending, Tom Browne, failed to provide the inquiry with an opening statement ahead of a scheduled appearance next week - as he is required under strict legislation.
Mr Browne's refusal to comply with the inquiry means he now faces a grilling from gardai and a possible High Court action if he continues to defy the inquiry's instruction.
The news comes as it emerged the inquiry will not question three other senior Anglo executives, including former chairman, Sean FitzPatrick, after a direction from the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP).
Meanwhile, exiled former Anglo chief executive, David Drumm, who is scheduled to appear before the inquiry at the end of the month, has provided an opening statement.
However, inquiry sources said they do not expect Mr Drumm, who has been living in the US since Anglo collapsed, to return for a hearing.
"I'll make sure there's a free bar in Leinster House if he shows," said one well-placed source.
Mr Drumm's letter is currently being reviewed by the inquiry's legal team as is normal practice with all witness statements.
It has not been seen by either the inquiry chairman, Ciaran Lynch, or the rest of the inquiry members.
An inquiry source said it was a "bizarre" situation that Mr Drumm was so far complying with the inquiry while living in the US, but Mr Browne was resisting even though he was based in Dublin.
"It's very strange he hasn't responded to anything from us. I hope he sees sense," a source said.
Mr Browne was involved in a legal action with his former employer over an alleged €50m debt used to by Anglo shares.
Anglo's former head of treasury, John Bowe, was due to appear at a hearing on the same day as Mr Browne.
However, Mr Bowe, along with Mr Fitzpatrick and former Anglo executive, Pat Whelan, have been excused from attending the inquiry by the DPP, as it could prejudice forthcoming criminal proceedings.
Banking Inquiry chairman Mr Lynch said he was disappointed the committee was forced to withdraw witnesses but he accepted the DPP's decision
"The committee has identified lines of inquiry and is resolutely following up on those lines of inquiry with witnesses and has been firm, robust but fair in asking the necessary questions, and that is evident from the public meetings to date," Mr Lynch said.
"Naturally, the committee is disappointed that we have been instructed to withdraw directions in relation to a number of witnesses who were due to come before the inquiry.
"That said, we operate within the legal framework set down by the Dáil and Seanad and we are conscious of the need to be prudent in how the committee conducts its business to ensure that the integrity of legal proceedings is protected and carried out separately from the committee's work."
He added: "From the outset, the committee has been aware that our inquiry is separate from, and not replacing, the work of the courts.
"The committee will continue its work to inquire into the reasons Ireland experienced a systemic banking crisis, including the political, economic, social, cultural, financial and behavioural factors and policies which impacted on or contributed to the crisis and the preventative reforms implemented in the wake of the crisis."
The banking inquiry is due to hear from other Anglo executives in the coming weeks, including Mike Aynsley - who was appointed as chief executive as the bank's financial problems emerged.
Alan Dukes, who was appointed as public interest director following the bank bailout, will also appear at hearing on the same day. Former Anglo non-executive director, Fintan Drury, will appear too.
Taoiseach Enda Kenny, Tánaiste Joan Burton, Jobs Minister Richard Bruton and former Communications Minister Pat Rabbitte will appear next week to discuss their time in opposition.
Browne was tipped to take helm at bank
Former Anglo executive Tom Browne was once tipped to replace Sean FitzPatrick at the helm of the now defunct lender.
The one-time head of Anglo's lending division - who ultimately left the lender in November 2007 - may have had a lucky escape in that respect, but his association with the scandal-hit bank didn't end with his departure.
In 2010, it emerged that the then nationalised lender was pursuing Browne for around €50m over allegedly unpaid loans. Mr Browne's loans were secured against shares in the bank and various property investments.
But Brown argued that he was being singled out by Anglo because of his previous position with the bank. He claimed "negligent acts" by Anglo and State bodies between late 2007 and January 2009, resulting in the bank's nationalisation. This in turn had led to the collapse of the bank's shares, resulting in him suffering substantial losses. The case was adjourned in late 2012.
After his time at Anglo, Browne went on to co-found debt advisory firm LeBruin and currently serves as managing director. His profile blurb for the company notes that he has 25 years of banking experience and has built up relationships with some of Ireland's top business figures.