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Friday 29 August 2014

I had stepped back. David was very clear he was in charge – FitzPatrick to gardai

Sarah Stack

Published 28/03/2014 | 02:30

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Former Anglo chief executive David Drumm, left, and the bank’s ex-chairman Sean FitzPatrick

Former Anglo Irish Bank chairman Sean FitzPatrick was asked to meet Sean Quinn to convince him to sell his secret stake in the bank, a court heard.

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The ex-banker told gardai he had never spoken to or met the businessman before the discussion in a Navan hotel in September 2007 as rumours circulated about his position in the bank, built up through contracts for difference (CFDs).

Mr FitzPatrick alleged this practice was "highly unusual" as he "rarely would, never would" attend any type of executive meeting with then chief executive David Drumm.

"The reason I was being asked was because David felt Sean Quinn has such high regard for me and that I was to show how disappointed I was that he had CFDs in the bank and that, according to David, might encourage him to dispose of them," Mr FitzPatrick told gardai, adding that it was clear Mr Quinn was not going to do anything at the time.

Mr FitzPatrick said that Anglo's board was "horrified" when told about the extent of Mr Quinn's stake in the bank, which he recalled at being between 19pc and 22pc, and wanted the Financial Regulator informed and management to find a solution.

He said his involvement as non-executive chairman with the Cavan businessman ended when Mr Quinn agreed at another meeting in Buswells Hotel in March 2008 to buy full shares in the bank for himself and his family, and to sell 10pc of his CFDs stake to the market.

"I was sort of bowing out at that stage and David would be driving it,' he said.

Mr FitzPatrick (65), from Greystones, Co Wicklow; former head of finance and risk 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.

The 16 charges relate to loans to six members of the Quinn family and 10 high net worth Anglo clients, who became known as the Maple 10, to unwind Mr Quinn's secret 29pc stake in CFDs. Mr Whelan, former Anglo head of lending (Ireland), also denies being privy to the fraudulent alteration of loan facility letters to seven individuals.

DEFENSIVE

The trial of the three executives heard Mr FitzPatrick was questioned by fraud squad officers over the loan-for-shares deal on March 18, 2010, at Bray garda station.

Dressed in a dark grey suit, white and blue striped shirt, pink and blue tie, and wearing thick rimmed glasses, Mr FitzPatrick carefully studied documents as memos of his garda interview notes were being read out at the Circuit Criminal Court in Dublin by prosecuting counsel Una Ni Raifeartaigh.

He told investigators he was never involved in any executive discussions or decisions at Anglo since he resigned as chief executive after almost 20 years in January 2005, ensuring Mr Drumm was "the man in charge" and "ran the show".

"I was 56, I'd worked hard," he told investigators, referring to building a company worth hundreds of millions and a staff of thousands.

"I wanted to pass the baton to someone else. I'd done my time."

He agreed he had been "the face of Anglo" but did not step on Mr Drumm's toes, describing the new CEO as a bright, articulate guy who got "defensive" and "wasn't open enough" towards the end.

The pair had a professional relationship and had never socialised together or been in each others' homes, he said, and he last spoke to his former colleague around Christmas 2008 when he sent him a text message.

"If I tried to run the show with senior executives, there would be absolute disharmony, murder and divided loyalty and they would be telling me to bugger off," he said.

"It was clear I had stepped back and David was also very clear he was the guy in charge."

Mr FitzPatrick challenged gardai that he wanted proof from the bank's executive board members to back up their claims that he didn't take a back seat in 2008.

"This is not a game here," he said under questioning.

"I'm not trying to detach myself to save myself blame. I'm just telling the truth."

The trial, before a jury of seven men and seven women, continues today.

Irish Independent

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