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Friday 22 August 2014

20-minute chat led to developer buying up €45m of Anglo shares, court hears

Sarah Stack and Dearbhail McDonald

Published 14/02/2014 | 02:30

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Gerry Gannon

PROPERTY developer Gerry Gannon agreed to buy 10 million Anglo Irish Bank shares after he had signed up to a loan-for-shares deal over a 20-minute chat, a court heard.

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Mr Gannon told the trial of three Anglo executives that he had a net worth of about €1bn when he was approached with "an opportunity" to buy a 1pc stake in Anglo because he was "a good customer of the bank".

He alleged that it was never explained to him why he was being offered the deal in July 2008 and told the court he never sold any of his shares – paid for with a €45m loan – before the bank was nationalised.

"The shares were so low, I bought some (myself) afterwards," one of the so-called Maple 10 told the Circuit Criminal Court in Dublin. "I probably believed they'd go back up."

Mr Gannon knew he was personally liable for 25pc of the loan after the meeting with Anglo executives Pat Whelan and David Drumm.

"It meant that if anything happened I was to pay back 25pc, which I was quite happy with," he said.

Mr Gannon said Morgan Stanley was the "middle man" and would "do all the buying and everything else" but he did not know when the shares were bought or for how much.

"I give most of my stuff to my financial people in my office and they look after the 'ins and outs' of it," he added.

Under cross-examination, the Gannon Homes boss said he had "always found all people who worked in Anglo to be honest and truthful".

"The same I would like to think of myself," he told Brendan Grehan SC, defending Mr Whelan.

Another investor, Gerard Maguire, said he was holidaying in Nice when Mr Whelan and Mr Drumm flew out that July and asked him to help rescue the bank's shares from hedge fund managers and "to inspire a bit of confidence and to fight off the attack".

"I agreed, but I asked two questions," said Mr Maguire about the two-hour meeting in France. "One was, 'is this transaction legal?' I was advised they wouldn't be approaching unless they had sought legal advice and that the legal advice was in order.

REGULATOR

"I also asked were the Central Bank aware of it and approved it. I didn't mention the regulator. The reply was the regulator knew about it and approved."

When Anglo collapsed seven months later, the developer still had eight million of his shares – worth €30m – and had lost an estimated €6m from his own personal shareholding of 450,000 shares, purchased at €13.50 each.

The bank's former non-executive chairman Sean FitzPatrick (65), from Greystones, Co Wicklow, former chief risk officer William McAteer (63), from Rathgar in Dublin and Pat Whelan (51), from Malahide, Dublin, have all pleaded not guilty to 16 charges of unlawfully providing financial assistance to individuals for the purpose of buying shares in Anglo Irish Bank in 2008.

Mr Whelan, former managing director of lending for Anglo in Ireland, also denies seven charges of being privy to the fraudulent alternation of a loan facility letter.

Mr Drumm is in the US and is not on trial.

Mr Maguire told the court how he had watched his personal shareholding fall to €5.30 and then €4.42 in July 2008, and to less than a euro by that December.

"I was not a professional investor," he said. "If I wasn't assisting the bank in this situation it was experiencing, I wouldn't have been investing in that order."

The developer added that the bank's position took priority for him over making money.

"If everything went well there was a strong probability of a profit," Mr Maguire added.

Irish Independent

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