News Courts

Tuesday 30 September 2014

Former Anglo legal adviser summonsed to testify at sentence hearing

Dearbhail McDonald, Legal Editor

Published 28/04/2014 | 12:46

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SOLICITOR Robert Heron, who advised the former Anglo Irish Bank in 2008, has been summonsed to testify at the sentence hearing of two former directors convicted of providing illegal loans to ten individuals.

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The Irish Independent has learned that Mr Heron, a former equity partner at commercial law firm Matheson Ormsby Prentice Solicitors, now known as Matheson, has been compelled to appear at the sentence hearing by the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions.

It is understood Mr Heron, who now works for Dunnes Stores, was issued with a sub poena this morning and may be called to give evidence.

Former Anglo Director of Finance William McAteer and former head of Irish lending, Pat Whelan, were convicted by a jury on April 17 last following a 48-day trial of providing the loans to the group known as the Maple 10.

During the 11 week proceedings, trial judge Martin Nolan ruled that no mention of any legal advice obtained by Anglo in the run up to the Maple 10 deal could be considered by the jury.

A host of witnesses, chiefly the Maple 10, testified that they had no qualms about the July 2008 deal because Anglo had obtained positive legal advice.

But the jury were suddenly told by Judge Martin Nolan on day 18 of the trial that they must disregard any evidence of legal advice as irrelevant.

The content of the legal advice and what details Mr Heron was told of the deal is now expected to take centre stage at the sentence hearing.

The jury found Mr McAteer and Mr Whelan guilty on ten charges each of breaching Section 60 of the Companies Act 1963 by lending money to investors to buy shares in Anglo for a share support scheme.

The jury acquitted them on six further charges each of lending money for the same purpose to members of former billionaire businessman Sean Quinn’s family.

Their co-accused, former Anglo Chairman Sean FitzPatrick, was found not guilty on all against him in relation to the Maple Ten. Judge Nolan had already directed not guilty verdicts on the other six counts because of lack of evidence.

The three men had denied all charges.

The Maple Ten deal was designed to unwind the 29.4 per cent control of Anglo which Mr Quinn had built up through investment tools known as Contracts for Difference (CFDs).

The ten investors were loaned a total of €450 million by Anglo to buy around 10 per cent of the bank’s shares which Mr Quinn controlled. Mr Quinn’s wife and five children were also loaned €169 million to buy nearly 15 per cent of the stock.

The jury deliberated for a total of 16 hours and 53 minutes over five days and returned unanimous guilty verdicts. 

Mr McAteer (63) of Rathgar, Dublin 6  and Mr Whelan (52) of Malahide, County Dublin are on continuing bail.

Judge Nolan was highly critical of the role  of the former Financial Regulator, Pat Neary, who gave evidence that he hadn’t questioned Mr Quinn about his large holding in Anglo because he didn’t feel it would be fair or appropriate” for him “to tackle a person” about his own investment portfolio.    

Judge Nolan said: “I also take the view that the Financial Regulator took no steps to discourage the scheme or in anyway stop it. And it seems from regulator witnesses that they were somewhat relieved when the scheme went through and that the CFD issue was alleviated and regularised.”

During legal argument in the jury’s absence, Judge Nolan indicated that he would take the approval of the Financial Regulator as “a mitigating factor” if the men were convicted.

Judge Nolan is scheduled to begin the sentence hearing at 2 pm  and has indicated that is unlikely to give a decision on sentences until a later date.

Irish Independent

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