Sunday 23 November 2014

Kevin Cardiff's 15 minutes of Court 19 fame

Published 13/03/2014 | 02:30

Kevin Cardiff at court yesterday. Picture: Courtpix
Kevin Cardiff at court yesterday. Picture: Courtpix

COURT 19 tingled with a heightened sense of expectation as Kevin Cardiff took the stand in the Anglo trial, a blue folder and worn grey notebook tucked purposefully under his arm.

As Second Secretary in the Department of Finance, Mr Cardiff had held a key position at that extraordinary time when the country's finances went to hell in a handcart.

The crux of the trial is that the Anglo bankers claim that the decisions they had made were known about in the Department of Finance.

Mr Cardiff's attendance at the trial was therefore much anticipated.

However, the premature frisson which had greeted his arrival in the stand fizzled out less than 15 minutes later, with the judge's declaration: "Mr Cardiff, you are free to go."

With his bulk encased in a dark charcoal suit, a wine-coloured spotted tie and his hands clasped loosely in front of him, Mr Cardiff's demeanour was solemn and his gaze was intent as he made the affirmation rather than swearing an oath on the Bible.

His evidence was concise, centring around one note concerning the Maple 10 transaction, whereby a group of wealthy individuals bought shares to "unwind" businessman Sean Quinn's 29pc stake in the bank.

He became aware of the scale of the Quinn family's holding in Anglo "sometime in 2008" and he subsequently clarified that it had been in the "first quarter" of the year, with some information becoming available in February but more in March.

Newspaper reports in March had revealed the Quinns' Contracts for Difference (CFD) holding. Paul O'Higgins SC for the DPP asked what had been the department's worries about that.

"Okay, there were three or four specific worries," said Mr Cardiff promptly, as he rattled them off fluently.

Key was financial stability. A large holding by an individual could be the target for speculators, he explained.

This individual was also a large borrower from the bank, and as owner could potentially influence it, said Mr Cardiff.

"And the implications of this?" inquired Mr O'Higgins.

"Well," Mr Cardiff briefly exhaled. The department was not comfortable with the idea of Mr Quinn controlling Anglo since he had already breached finance regulations by taking money out of Quinn Insurance to fund his CFD position, he explained, adding that it would not be "desirable" to have such a person controlling a bank.

Earlier, there had been a moment of scintillating verbal fencing between Con Horan, second-in-command at the Financial Regulator's office, and Michael O'Higgins SC for Sean FitzPatrick, who accused him of "cheerleading" the Quinn 'unwind deal'.

"I wouldn't characterise it like that," said Mr Horan stiffly.

Mr O'Higgins continued to maintain that they were, saying: "Cheerleading, that's what you were doing."

The regulator had been "positively disposed" and "comfortable" about the deal, said Mr Horan.

"You call it comfortable, I call it cheerleading – what's the difference?" Mr O'Higgins asked.

"Do people get a dictionary going to work in the financial services when they use these bland terms?" exclaimed Mr O'Higgins.

"Maybe my language isn't as colourful as yourself," Mr Horan cautiously replied, conceding that there was "not a huge difference" in their meanings.

Irish Independent

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