Thursday 8 December 2016

Jury in FitzPatrick case told trial faces further delays and will continue into next year

Published 23/11/2016 | 12:06

Former AIB chairman Sean FitzPatrick Photo: Steve Humphreys
Former AIB chairman Sean FitzPatrick Photo: Steve Humphreys

The jury in the trial of Sean FitzPatrick has been told the case has overrun “to a significant extent”.

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Jurors were initially informed the trial of the former Anglo Irish Bank chairman on charges of misleading auditors would be completed by Christmas.

But significant delays have arisen due to legal argument and Judge John Aylmer said it now looked like the case would run until the end of February.

Mr FitzPatrick is facing 27 charges, all of which he denies, in relation to the alleged non-disclosure of loans he received from the bank.

Although the jury was selected in late September, it has only heard an opening statement from the prosecution so far.

Evidence from witnesses has been delayed by legal argument.

At Dublin Circuit Criminal Court this morning, Judge Aylmer told jurors that ongoing legal argument over an issue was set to continue until next Wednesday.

“The prediction is this case could go to the end of February,” he said.

“I am told that when all of the legal argument is clear there would be six weeks of evidence to put before you.”

He told jurors the case would break for Christmas on December 21 and would resume on January 11.

However, he said that if the jury wished to return a week earlier in January, this could be facilitated.

He said jurors may have plans over the Christmas period and the court did not want to interfere if they had.

Two legal issues have been the subject of argument in the absence of the jury so far.

Judge Aylmer said that there was going to be a third period of legal argument in the New Year and this could take up to two weeks.

“It is very difficult to tell how long these legal arguments will take,” he said.

“Nobody is to blame for that. These things take time and need to take their course.”

The judge asked them to retire to discuss amongst themselves what they wanted to do.

After considering the judges comments the jury returned.

Its forewoman said jurors were happy to serve until to the end of February and would like to return after Christmas on January 11.

However, issues would arise if the trial went on any longer as a juror had a holiday booked in March.

Another juror had a holiday booked between February 6 and 8.

Judge Aylmer said this could be facilitated by the court.

“I assure you we are all grateful you can accommodate us until the end of February when you were initially told it would be over by Christmas,” he said.

A specially-enlarged 15 person jury was originally sworn in the case. However, two jurors have since had to be excused.

In his opening statement earlier this month, prosecution counsel Dominic McGinn alleged Mr FitzPatrick failed to disclose multi-million euro directors’ loans used for property investments while he was chief executive and later chairman of Anglo.

Sums ranging between €10m and €100m were borrowed by Mr FitzPatrick and people linked to him to invest in hotels, shopping centres and building developments between 2002 and 2007, he said.

He said Mr FitzPatrick failed to disclose the loans to Anglo’s auditors Ernst & Young.

The 27 charges against Mr FitzPatrick include 21 counts of making misleading, false or deceptive statements to the auditors of Anglo Irish Bank, contrary to section 197 of the Companies Act 1990.

The offences allegedly occurred on dates between 2002 and 2007 and carry a maximum five year jail term.

Five counts allege Mr FitzPatrick did not disclose to auditors Ernst & Young arrangements temporarily reducing the balance of loans to him or persons connected to him at the end of the financial year. The reductions cited ranged in size from €4.3m to €88.9m.

Six counts allege Mr FitzPatrick failed to advise auditors of the need to revise financial statements after each temporary arrangement concluded. The sums involved in the arrangements cited ranged from €700,000 and €119.8m.

Four counts allege Mr FitzPatrick failed to disclose the full extent of loans received by him or persons connected to him from Anglo, ranging in value between €5.5m and €23.8m.

Six counts allege Mr FitzPatrick failed to inform auditors of an arrangement between Anglo and Irish Nationwide regarding loans he received from Irish Nationwide.

He also faces six charges of giving false information contrary to section 242 of the Companies Act 1990 on dates between 2002 and 2008.

The offences carry a maximum jail term of three years. All counts relate to Mr FitzPatrick allegedly producing financial statements giving a false figure for the aggregate value of loans to directors of Anglo.

It is alleged the amounts given left out the value of his own loans.

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