Wednesday 28 September 2016

Former Anglo chairman Sean Fitzpatrick pleads not guilty to 27 charges

Jury selected in FitzPatrick trial

Shane Phelan Legal Affairs Editor

Published 21/09/2016 | 11:55

Sean FitzPatrick
Sean FitzPatrick

A jury has been selected for the trial of former Anglo Irish Bank chairman Sean FitzPatrick on charges of misleading the bank’s auditors.

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The trial, which is taking place at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court, is expected to last three months.

This morning, prior to the jury being selected, Mr FitzPatrick (67) pleaded not guilty to 27 charges put to him.

Wearing a navy suit, light blue shirt and wine tie, Mr FitzPatrick, of Whitshed Road, Greystones, Co Wicklow, spoke only to say “not guilty” after each charge was read.

The charges include 21 counts of making a misleading, false or deceptive statement to auditors and six charges of furnishing false information in the years 2002 to 2007.

The charges are connected with the alleged non-disclosure of multi-million euro loans held by Mr FitzPatrick or people close to him when auditors Ernst & Young were conducting end of financial year audits.

An enlarged jury of seven men and eight women was selected over the course just over an hour.

Almost 100 potential jurors came before the court. Eight of these were challenged by the defence, while four were challenged by the prosecution.

Neither side is required to give reasons for challenging a potential juror.

Around 70 other potential jurors were excused by Judge John Aylmer for one reason or other.

These included a person who had a connection to Ernst & Young. An AIB employee was also excused.

Another potential juror knew a witness, one woman said she could not commit to a 12-week trial, while another woman said she was “decidedly not neutral in the case of bankers” and was excused by the judge.

The jurors were asked by Judge Aylmer to return to the court on Monday, but he said they would not be needed after that point for a period of two weeks as there was an issue which required legal argument in their absence.

He told them that they had taken an oath to only give a verdict in accordance with the evidence put before them.

The judge said it was “of obvious importance” that jurors did not seek out any information outside of what they heard in court. He added that it was of “utmost importance” that they restrain themselves from seeking information from social media or anywhere else.

Judge Aylmer said it was natural that their families would be curious about the case.

He said he was happy for jurors to tell people the nature of the charges, but said they would have to restrain themselves from discussing things any further until after the trial.

“I ask you not to engage in those sort of conversations,” he said.

“This is a very important case to give you. I hope you realise why it is important,” the judge said.

Earlier, the judge outlined to potential jurors several categories of person who were deemed ineligible for the jury in this case.

These included: anyone who knows Mr FitzPatrick or anyone connected to the case, persons who have expressed views in public or on social media on issues connected to Anglo or the banking crisis, and people who have strong feelings in relation to the crisis which would affect their impartiality.

Also excluded were persons in any campaign or protest group or who had been involved in anti-austerity protests.

Current or former bank shareholders were excluded, as were people employed or in any way connected with Anglo’s successor, the Irish Bank Resolution Corporation.

Other categories of person excluded included people employed or connected to Ernst & Young, persons employed as an accountant or auditor, or current or former employees of the Central Bank, Department of Public Expenditure and Reform or the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation.

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