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Sunday 31 August 2014

FitzPatrick was 'picked on' by the gardai, his barrister tells Anglo trial

Sarah Stack

Published 11/04/2014 | 02:30

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The three accused, from left, Pat Whelan, Sean FitzPatrick and Willie McAteer. Photo: PA
The three accused, from left, Pat Whelan, Sean FitzPatrick and Willie McAteer. Photo: PA

SEAN FitzPatrick was singled out and picked on during a probe into a loan-for-shares deal to unwind Sean Quinn's secret stake in Anglo Irish Bank, a court heard.

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Anglo's former chairman was the only non-executive director to be arrested by fraud squad officers investigating the alleged illegal loans, the jury was told.

His defence barrister, Michael O'Higgins SC, said the prosecution had conceded that the ex-banker was singled out from other non-executive directors for prosecution.

"There were seven non-executive directors on the board, but only one was arrested," he said, referring to Mr FitzPatrick's 7am arrest in March 2010, which made the news.

"Five other non-executive directors made statements in this case through a corporate law form. They were never even interviewed," said counsel.

Criticising the garda probe, Mr O'Higgins accused gardai of taking up "the cudgels of the man on the barstool", saying: "For you are the face of Anglo, a cat couldn't wet the ground in there without you knowing about it."

He continued: "If I had suggested to you that my client was picked on, was singled out above others, you'd say I was a conspiracy theorist – but the prosecution have told you this."

Mr FitzPatrick had told officers he was not involved in the running of the bank and challenged them to find one person who would contradict his claim, the barrister said.

"That was in March 2010," Mr O'Higgins added. "We're now in April 2014 and not one person has been produced."

Mr O'Higgins told the jury that his client could not have authorised the loans at the centre of criminal charges as he did not have the power to do so.

Mr FitzPatrick (65), from Greystones, Co Wicklow; William McAteer (63), of Rathgar in Dublin; and Pat Whelan (51), of Malahide, Co Dublin; all deny 10 counts of providing unlawful financial assistance to high net-worth Anglo clients – known as the so-called 'Maple 10' – in July 2008 in order to buy shares in Anglo. The loan-for-shares deal involved unwinding Mr Quinn's secret 29pc stake in the bank, built up through contracts for difference.

Mr Whelan, Anglo's former head of lending in Ireland and its ex-chief risk officer Mr McAteer also deny six counts each of providing unlawful financial assistance to six members of the Quinn family as part of the same deal.

The three former bankers were not at a meeting where the Maple 10 loan-for-shares deal was allegedly conceived, the court heard. Brendan Grehan, senior counsel for Pat Whelan, accused the Financial Regulator of suggesting that the bank involve the wealthy customers in a scheme to buy Sean Quinn's secret stake in the bank during a meeting with former chief executive David Drumm.

He alleged that Con Horan, number two in the regulator's office, pushed the transaction and suggested how it might be achieved in order to save Anglo, Quinn Insurance, the Quinn Group and the entire banking system.

The defence barrister told the trial Mr Horan was "not quite willing" to categorically state that the first reference to "high net-worth individuals" as potential investors had come from Mr Drumm, who is in the US and not on trial.

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"There were only two people in the room," said Mr Grehan, in his closing submission. "If it didn't come from David Drumm or he's (Mr Horan) not sure it came from David Drumm, it could only come from one other source and that can only be one other person – Con Horan."

Calling for his client to be found not guilty, Mr Grehan said Mr Whelan "did what he was asked by his chief executive"; adding that he did not have an inkling it was wrong.

Judge Martin Nolan previously directed that Mr FitzPatrick be cleared of the six charges relating to the Quinn loans and that Mr Whelan be acquitted of seven charges in connection with a facility letter.

The trial, which is in its tenth week at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court, continues.

Irish Independent

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