Thursday 29 September 2016

Prison sentences ranging from two to three and a half years for Anglo conspiracy trio

Shane Phelan Legal Affairs Editor

Published 29/07/2016 | 11:07

Willie McAteer, John Bowe and Denis Casey
Willie McAteer, John Bowe and Denis Casey

Three former banking executives have received sentences ranging from two years to three-and-a-half years for their role in a conspiracy to artificially inflate the books of Anglo Irish Bank by €7.2bn.

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The sentences were handed down by Judge Martin Nolan at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court this morning.

Former Ango chief risk officer Willie McAteer has been sentenced to three-and-a-half years, former Ango treasury official John Bowe has been sentenced to two years, while former Irish Life & Permanent chief executive Denis Casey has been sentenced to two years and nine months.

None of the defendants showed any emotion as the sentences were handed down.

All three men had behaved in a reprehensible manner and knew what they were doing was wrong, the judge said..

Judge Nolan said it was a case where “honesty and integrity was sorely lacking”.

The judge had earlier said the starting point for sentencing on the conspiracy charges was eight years. However, he took several mitigating factors into account in imposing lower sentences.

Last June a jury at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court convicted Mr Bowe (52), Mr McAteer (66) and Mr Casey (56) of conspiring to make Anglo’s books look €7.2bn healthier than they actual were.

The verdicts followed an 89-day trial, the longest criminal trial in the history of the State.

The jury spent a total of 65 hours deliberating on the charges.

The three men were involved in setting up a circular scheme of multi-billion euro transactions where Anglo moved money to IL&P and IL&P sent the money back, via their assurance firm Irish Life Assurance, to Anglo between September 26 and 30, 2008.

The scheme was designed so that the deposits came from the assurance company and would be treated as customer deposits, giving the impression the bank was in a healthier state than it actually was.

All three had pleaded not guilty to the charges.

Barristers for the three men had argued none of them had gained from the scheme and that there had been no loss to the State or the banks.

Sentencing Mr McAteer three and a half years, Judge Nolan said he had held a senior position in the bank.

Although it appeared then Anglo chief executive David Drumm was the “driving force” behind the scheme, nevertheless Mr McAteer was seen as a leader within the bank and he could have objected.

“It is grossly reprehensible what he did and a great shame on him,” said Judge Nolan.

Mr McAteer authorised these transfers when he knew what he was doing was deceitful, underhand and corrupt.”

Sentencing Mr Bowe to two years, the judge said he did not have the same seniority as Mr McAteer, but was the de facto treasurer of the bank and had liaised with Mr Drumm and Mr McAteer.

He was man of considerable experience and should have known what he was doing was wrong.

“In law, following orders is not a defence,” the judge said.

Judge Nolan said Mr Bowe had “failed to act with integrity and honesty in these matters” and had behaved reprehensibly by going along with it.

Sentencing Mr Casey to two years and nine months, the judge acknowledged that he had become involved in the scheme as part of the so-called ‘Green Jersey’ agenda, where Irish banks were encouraged to assist others in a time of economic crisis.

Judge Nolan said Mr Casey authorised Irish Life & Permanent’s involvement in the scheme.

“This was a grave error of judgment,” the judge said.

“He should have known and did know that this was a sham transaction.”.

Earlier, Judge Nolan said the crime had arisen during a period when people in the banking sector “were operating under great stress”.

The judge said he had taken into account submissions on behalf of the defendants that they had made no direct profit or reward from their crimes.

He said all had acted in what they believed was the best interest of the companies they worked for.

Judge Nolan said he had taken into account their background, what each man had achieved in life, their contribution to the community, and that they had been good family men.

Each of them had been the subject of odium and ridicule, had endured a lot of stress, and had lost their jobs, the judge said.

However, Judge Nolan said they were involved in a conspiracy where two blue chip publicly-quoted companies conspired to manipulate the balance sheet of Anglo Irish Bank.

It was decided in Anglo that it needed to hit a certain “corporate number” for banking deposits.

The judge said that when this could not be achieved legitimately a “dishonest, deceitful and corrupt scheme” was entered into.

Judge Nolan said the defendants helped manufacture €7.2bn in deposits in “an obvious sham transaction” for the purposes of improving Anglo’s end of year accounts .

He said people were entitled to rely on public accounts. Shareholders, depositors and other stakeholders made decisions based on these accounts

“It seemed Mr Drumm and the top management at Anglo decided this corporate number was important,” said Judge Nolan.

As a result of the scheme, they arrived with a “corporate number” that was 16pc higher than it should have been.

Although the judge said he was “very much aware” that certain authorities had “turned a blind eye” to what was happening, he said it was “a serious offence” and “a conspiracy on the public”.

The scheme had involved nine rotational transactions and had been considerably difficult to arrange.

The public, he said, was entitled to probity from blue chip companies.

“If we cannot rely on probity, then we lose all trust in such institutions,” he said.

“People are entitled to rely on the integrity and honesty of top firms. In this case honesty and integrity was sorely lacking.”

Judge Nolan questioned how Anglo’s auditors Ernst & Young had not known what was going on.

“It beggars belief that Ernst & Young signed off on the accounts,” he said.

“How they signed off on the accounts as true and fair is a mystery to me.”

The judge added: “They should have known what was occurring if they were if they were doing their job properly.”

Judge Nolan said the court hadn’t had the benefit of evidence from Ernst & Young, but to him the signing off of the accounts “seems incomprehensible”.

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