Thursday 25 May 2017

FitzPatrick yet to be quizzed over €87m

Emmet Oliver Deputy Business Editor

FORMER Anglo Irish boss Sean FitzPatrick has still not been questioned by the gardai or corporate watchdog officials probing the concealment of €87m of secret loans.

The revelation comes more than a year after he admitted the huge sum was transferred to rival bank Irish Nationwide in an effort to hide the extent of loans to the bank's directors.

The news is likely to spark further controversy among politicians and former Anglo Irish shareholders already concerned over the length of time the probe is taking.

The bank has already received €4bn in taxpayers' money and will need several billion more to restore its finances.

Last February, a large number of box files were removed from the now-nationalised Anglo's St Stephen's Green headquarters during a high-profile and well-publicised raid by the Garda Bureau of Fraud Investigation. Since then, investigators have been poring over emails and electronic data obtained during this raid. However, not a single prosecution has been made to date.

Investigators said last night the "information-gathering" phase of the probe needed to continue, but they denied suggestions it would prove impossible at this stage for any case to be brought over the issue of the loans. Mr FitzPatrick has insisted the loan transfers didn't breach "legal regulations".

The Irish Independent has also learned that up to 45 staff in Anglo were aware of the transfer of the loans to Irish Nationwide, and many of them could be interviewed by the investigation teams. Anglo has declined to comment on the ongoing investigations.

When asked whether any direct contact had been made with Mr FitzPatrick himself to date, the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement also declined to comment, as did the gardai. Garda sources said it was unlikely "key personalities" would be questioned until much later in the investigation.

However, legal advice provided to Anglo Irish Bank by McCann FitzGerald states that bringing prosecutions for breaches of company law in relation to loans by bank directors could prove difficult.

This is because during the period when the FitzPatrick loans were being moved into Irish Nationwide, banks were only required to reveal total loan amounts at the end of each financial year. The FitzPatrick loans were moved out of Anglo before each year end.

'Golden circle'

The law governing loans to bank directors was tightened last year with the passing of the Companies (Amendment) Act, but the changes do not apply to the FitzPatrick loans, which took place over an eight-year period.

It is understood that Mr FitzPatrick has not been interviewed by any investigators in relation to two other issues -- the deposits placed with Anglo Irish in September 2008 by Irish Life & Permanent, or the placing of Anglo Irish shares with a so-called "golden circle'' of investors in July 2008.

Sean FitzPatrick was the chairman of the bank during these events, but it was led on a day-to-day basis by David Drumm, who now lives in Cape Cod in the US. It is thought Mr Drumm has also yet to be interviewed on the issue of the loans.

The decision not to interview Mr FitzPatrick or Mr Drumm at this point suggests that the investigation has several months to run, despite public outrage and growing impatience among politicians to have the issue brought to a conclusion.

The moving of loans by Mr FitzPatrick is not contested by either the bank or the former Anglo chief.

Irish Independent

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