Saturday 10 December 2016

'Relieved' Fitzpatrick cleared in Anglo trial

Conor Gallagher and Nicola Anderson

Published 04/06/2016 | 02:30

Former Director of Finance at Irish Life and Permanent, Peter Fitzpatrick, leaves court after being found not guilty of conspiracy to defraud. Photo: Collins
Former Director of Finance at Irish Life and Permanent, Peter Fitzpatrick, leaves court after being found not guilty of conspiracy to defraud. Photo: Collins

The former CEO of Irish Life & Permanent (ILP) is the only remaining accused in a trial which has lasted since mid-January, after another defendant was cleared yesterday.

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Denis Casey (56) will return to Dublin Circuit Criminal Court on Tuesday, where 11 jurors will continue deliberating whether he conspired to assist Anglo Irish Bank to defraud the markets in a €7.2bn scheme.

Yesterday, the jurors acquitted his former colleague, ILP's then finance director Peter Fitzpatrick (63), of the same offence. It was day 86 of the trial, making it by far the longest criminal trial in the State's history.

After almost 47 hours of deliberations, at last came the verdict: not guilty. Mr Fitzpatrick immediately dropped his head in his hands, trembling, weeping and overcome.

Judge Martin Nolan acceded to a defence application to discharge Mr Fitzpatrick from the indictment.

Afterwards, Mr Fitzpatrick revealed that he had prepared a short statement but that it was "gone". "I'd just cry my eyes out," he admitted.

In the end, all he said as he left the courts with his family, was: "Relieved, relieved."

On Wednesday, the jury had convicted Anglo's former head of capital markets, John Bowe (52), and the bank's then finance director, Willie McAteer (65), who were accused of conspiring to mislead investors, depositors and lenders about the true health of Anglo. They have been remanded on bail pending sentence until July 25.

Bowe, from Glasnevin, Dublin; McAteer of Greenrath, Tipperary Town; Mr Casey (56) from Raheny, Dublin and Mr Fitzpatrick (63) of Convent Lane, Portmarnock, Dublin had all pleaded not guilty to conspiring to mislead investors by setting up a €7.2bn scheme between March 1 and September 30, 2008, to bolster Anglo's balance sheet.

The prosecution case was that the four men were involved in a setting up a circular scheme of billion-euro transactions - where Anglo lent money to ILP and ILP sent the money back to Anglo, via their assurance firm Irish Life Assurance.

The scheme was designed so that the deposits came from the assurance company and would be treated as customer deposits, which are considered a better measure of a bank's strength than inter-bank loans.

The €7.2bn deposit was later accounted for in Anglo's preliminary results on December 3, 2008, as part of Anglo's customer deposits figure.

The prosecution alleged that the entire objective of the scheme was to mislead anybody reading Anglo's accounts by artificially inflating the customer deposits number from €44bn to €51bn, a difference of 16pc.

McAteer was Anglo's director of finance and Bowe was head of capital markets in the bank's treasury department.

Their lawyers had argued that their clients believed that the deposits were real deposits and were accounted for correctly on Anglo's balance sheet, and so no fraud was carried out.

Lawyers defending former ILP chief executive Mr Casey and his then finance director argued that their clients had no control over how Anglo would account for the deposits and had no intention to mislead the public.

Profile: Executive was among the most senior at ILP

As director of finance at Irish Life & Permanent (ILP), Peter Fitzpatrick worked as one of the most senior executives at what was then a major investments, insurance and banking group.

An experienced executive who originally qualified as a chartered accountant in 1979, he'd held the group finance director role at ILP since 1999, when the business was formed out of a merger of Irish Life and Permanent TSB.

Fitzpatrick had originally joined what was the Irish Permanent Building Society in 1992 as finance director. He had helped manage the society's conversion from a mutual body to a corporate bank, and the subsequent listing on the Dublin and London stock exchanges in 1994, as well as the later merger.

Irish Independent

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