FORMER Anglo Irish Bank chairman and chief executive Sean Fitzpatrick is to go on trial accused of unlawfully helping to back a group of investors – including members of Sean Quinn's family – to buy shares in the financial institution in 2008.
The 64-year-old had been questioned previously during a three-and-a-half year probe by detectives from the Garda Bureau of Fraud Investigation attached to the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement (ODCE) into alleged financial irregularities at the failed bank.
The bankrupt former businessman, with an address at Camaderry, Whitshed Road, Greystones, Co Wicklow, stepped down in December 2008.
Anglo was subsequently nationalised and re-branded the Irish Bank Resolution Corporation (IBRC) with its collapse costing Irish taxpayers about €30bn.
The dapper former banker had been arrested at Dublin Airport in the early hours of today by arrangement– and indicated that he understood why – before he was taken to the Bridewell Garda Station in the city-centre.
There, at 8.08AM, he made “no comment” when he was charged with 16 counts contrary to Section 60 of the Companies Act.
The charges allege that before it was nationalised, he permitted the bank to “give unlawful financial assistance” to 16 named individuals for the purpose of or in connection with a purchase by the same people of shares in the then Anglo Irish Bank Corporation Plc.
It is claimed the alleged unlawful financial help to buy shares was given between July 10 and July 17, 2008 to 15 people – which include the so-called “Maple Ten” group of Irish Investors and several members of Sean Quinn's family – and from July 17 until July 30, of the same year, to Patricia Quinn, the wife of now bankrupt quarry tycoon Sean.
Among the names on the charges is Sean Quinn Junior, who was jailed last week by the High Court for contempt of court for hiding €500m of property assets from Anglo, now called the IBRC.
Also included in the names of people who allegedly got financial assistance to buy shares in the bank are: Colette Marie Quinn, Aoife Quinn, Ciara Quinn, Brenda Quinn, property developer Patrick McKillen, Seamus Ross, Brian O'Farrell, John McCabe, Gerard Maguire, Patrick Kearney, Gerard Gannon, Gerard Conlon, Sean Reilly and Joseph O'Reilly.
State solicitor Jane Farrell told Judge Cormac Dunne at Dublin District Court that the DPP has directed that Mr Fitzpatrick is to face trial on indictment in relation to all the charges.
His charges are duplicates of those brought earlier this week against two other former senior executives from the bank, Willie McAteer and Patrick Whelan – and like them he will face a trial before a judge and jury at Dublin Circuit Court.
Looking tanned and dressed in a dark blazer, blue shirt, pink tie and beige trousers, the ex-banker remained seated and silent with his hands on his lap as he looked at the judge who was taking down notes detailing his arrest.
He spoke once saying “thank you” after the judge agreed to release him on bail pending the preparation of the book of evidence.
His sister Joyce O'Connor stood bail in the sum of €10,000.
Once the independent surety was approved, he was let out and ordered to appear again on October 8 next.
Mr Fitzpatrick walked from court with a garda escort straight into a media scrum and was surrounded by photographers and camera crews.
He was then ushered into a waiting taxi which whisked him away from the courthouse.
It had been a busy morning for the ex-Anglo chairman; he had been arrested at 5.37am by arrangement at Dublin Airport and from there he was taken to the Bridewell Garda Station.
After being charged there, he emerged from the back of the station at 9.12 am with his head looking downwards and a dark coat draped over both his hands.
He was the last of three prisoners loaded on a Garda van; seconds later it pulled out and brought him on the short drive to the Criminal Courts of Justice Complex at Parkgate Street for his hearing.
At 11.11am, at Dublin District Court, the 17th case was called. Sean Fitzpatrick walked in a doorway from the holding cells into courtroom number one where the public gallery was jam-packed with lawyers, gardai, about 20 journalists and dozens of legally aided unemployed defendants – some who faced drugs, shoplifting, assault and public order charges.
Detective Sergeant Brian Mahon of the Garda Bureau of Fraud Investigation, who has been seconded to the ODCE, told Judge Dunne that the former banker replied “I do” when he was asked if her understood why he had been arrested.
He was later charged with the 16 offences at 8.08am. “I cautioned him, after each charge his reply was 'no comment',” said Det-Sgt Mahon.
Defence solicitor Michael Staines put it to Det-Sgt Mahon that: “Once he became aware gardai were seeking to arrest him, he contacted you through his solicitor and arranged to meet you at the airport.”
The fraud squad detective agreed that was the case and that throughout Mr Fitzpatrick's travels abroad he has let gardai know where he was at all times.
There was no objection to bail but the officer said that he wanted a €10,000 independent surety to be set.
Granting bail, Judge Dunne ordered Mr Fitzpatrick to sign on every Wednesday at Irishtown Garda station in Dublin, reside at his current address and give gardai 48 hours notice if he intends to change address or leave the country.
The judge stipulated that the signing-on condition would be suspended during periods when Mr Fitzpatrick is out of the jurisdiction.
Mr Fitzpatrick put on his spectacles and got into the box once not to give evidence but to sign his bail bond and then thanked the judge quietly.
His prosecution comes after former Anglo Irish Bank finance director Willie McAteer and the bank's former Bank managing director for Ireland, Patrick Whelan were charged with committing the same offences.
On Monday each man was released on conditional bail of €1,000 with independent surety of €10,000 and both are to appear again at the district court on October 8 next when they are to be served with books of evidence and returned for trial.