Developer Ross was 'happy to help' Anglo by taking out €45m loan-for-shares deal
A FORMER billionaire developer gave a helping hand to Anglo Irish Bank by signing up for a loan-for-shares deal as the bank helped him out earlier in life, a court heard.
Menolly Homes boss Seamus Ross told the trial of three Anglo executives he was in the middle of his own High Court battle over pyrite-affected homes he built when he agreed to the plan in July 2008.
He said he was so focused on his case the €45m loan "wasn't even on his radar" but he always believed any recourse was on the price of the shares.
"I agreed to go ahead and give a helping hand to the bank," Mr Ross, one of the so-called Maple 10, told the Circuit Criminal Court in Dublin. "I was happy to help. They had helped me out earlier in life."
Sean FitzPatrick (65), from Greystones, Co Wicklow; William McAteer (63), of Rathgar in Dublin; and Pat Whelan (51), of Malahide, Co Dublin, deny 16 counts each of providing unlawful financial assistance to 16 individuals in July 2008 to buy shares in Anglo Irish Bank.
Mr Whelan also denies being privy to the fraudulent alteration of loan-facility letters to seven individuals.
The Menolly Homes boss was one of the biggest homebuilders in the country, and had properties and investments in London and Manhattan, the court heard.
He said that at a meeting in Anglo's headquarters, its former chief executive David Drumm and Mr Whelan told him the bank's board had approved the deal – and that the Financial Regulator wanted Anglo to unwind Sean Quinn's secret stake in the bank, built up through contracts for difference.
He told the court he could not recall how much he agreed to borrow, the terms of the deal or recourse offered.
"I certainly didn't leave the place worrying about a personal responsibility," he said.
Mr Ross told prosecuting counsel Paul O'Higgins SC he was not being evasive about recalling the different facility letters he signed, including a second changing the terms of the loan from 25pc personal recourse to zero, as he was focused on the court case involving homes affected by pyrite.
"Hundreds of people were knocking on my door. Their houses were falling down with pyrite," he said.
He admitted that had he read a third letter reinstating the 25pc recourse in January 2009 – making him liable for some €12m – he "probably wouldn't have signed it".
Mr Ross, who owned Dublin's boutique Dylan Hotel, laughed as he admitted he was worth a billion euro at the time and was a hard-nosed businessman who drove a hard bargain with the bank. "I agree, but I was also a nice fella too," he replied under cross-examination to Brendan Grehan, defence barrister for Mr Whelan.
The barrister claimed Mr Ross "knew precisely where he stood" with the letters but was picking to remember the one that got him off the hook on personal recourse.
"Human nature being what it is, of course that's exactly what happened." Mr Ross replied.