Monday 22 December 2014

Former Taoiseach Brian Cowen refuses to comment on Anglo tapes controversy

Published 25/06/2013 | 15:33

Former Taoiseach Brian Cowen
Former Taoiseach Brian Cowen

FORMER Taoiseach Brian Cowen today refused to comment on the Anglo tapes controversy which has gripped the country.

As fresh tapes emerged in the Irish Independent today, the retired Fianna Fail leader told the Herald: “I look forward to co-operating with any banking enquiry process that is established in the future

“I have refrained from public comment on matters generally since leaving public life,” he added.

His remarks came as the latest tapes, recorded just two days after the bank bailout, expose top Anglo officials laughing as one sings the former German national anthem. The German embassy, based in Booterstown, south Dublin, said they had “no comment” to make on the singing.

A spokesman for the embassy added they were aware of the taped singing.

After the bank guarantee that crippled the Irish taxpayer was announced in September 2008, there were concerns of a rift with Europe when German money started flowing into the doomed bank.

But recorded phone conversations caught Anglo boss David Drumm saying to his director of treasury John Bowe: “So f***in' what. Just take it anyway . . . stick the fingers up.”

In the internal phone call between the two men, recorded on October 2, 2008, they revel in “abusing” the bank guarantee.

Bowe is heard singing bars of the ex German national anthem, resulting in laughter from Drumm, who is heard mocking and mimicking a senior regulatory official who had contacted each of them.

Drumm tells Bowe that the official had called him earlier that day.

“I should be recording these calls for the f***ing craic – or at least making notes,” he says.

He then mimics the official’s voice, saying: “‘It's f***in' awful what's going on out there. I mean the f***in' Germans are on to us now, David, you know'.”

In a scheme which appears to show that Drumm knew the bank was abusing the bank guarantee but was wary about being too obvious about it, Drumm says: “So I'm playing a little bit of a game of ‘oh Jesus (to the regulatory official), look we don't want you to be under pressure, we're going to do the best we can . . . we won't do anything blatant, but we have to get the money in'.”

Bowe is then heard reporting to Drumm that he is telling staff: ‘look, just be smart . . . don't be stupid, get it (cash) in, don't be overtly pumping it so that somebody can quote you . . . but we want to get the liquidity ratios up'.”

imploding

The disastrous guarantee covered all deposits and borrowings, including bondholders, at the six Irish-owned banks for a period of two years.

In the days after it was introduced, concerns were being raised by the Financial Regulator and European leaders about the abuse of the Irish bank guarantee scheme.

Senior executives at Anglo also laughed at the prospect of their imploding bank being nationalised, meaning they could keep their jobs and become civil servants.

John Bowe had been involved in negotiations with the Central Bank but denies that he misled it.

Peter Fitzgerald had not been involved in those talks and has confirmed that he was unaware of any strategy or intention to mislead the authorities.

Finance Minister Michael Noonan fears the fallout from the Anglo tapes could be damaging to Ireland’s reputation.

Speaking to the Herald today, the Minister said that at the time of the bailout the reputation of of Ireland was “shot to bits”.

“It was difficult to gain trust again for Ireland, and anything that reminds governments abroad of those days in the past is not good,” he added.

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