Thursday 27 November 2014

Sean FitzPatrick wants the State to pay legal bills

Dearbhail McDonald and Conor Gallagher

Published 27/05/2014 | 02:30

Former Anglo Irish Bank chairman Sean FitzPatrick wants the State to pay his legal fees, estimated at up to €1m, from his recent criminal trial.

Mr FitzPatrick, who will exit bankruptcy next month, was acquitted in March of engaging in an illegal share support scheme.

Insurers had refused to cover his legal costs for the trial.

But the ex-banker did not apply for free legal aid, even though he is an undischarged bankrupt.

Trial judge Martin Nolan will next week hear legal submissions on the matter.

The granting of legal costs in the wake of an acquittal is a discretionary matter for judges.

In deciding whether to grant or deny legal costs to an acquitted person, judges can consider a range of matters

including the verdict; the evidence supporting the failed charges, whether the bringing of the charges can be deemed in any way "oppressive"; and the conduct of the accused in meeting the charges laid against him.

Last month, the Irish Independent revealed that Mr FitzPatrick's defence, which included a Senior and Junior Counsel as well as a solicitor, was privately funded after he was refused directors and officers liability (D&O) cover.

D&O cover was also refused to his fellow Anglo directors Pat Whelan and Willie McAteer. Mr Whelan and Mr McAteer were convicted on 10 counts of providing illegal loans to the group of investors known as the Maple 10 to prop up the Anglo share price.

The men are currently awaiting sentence.

Yesterday, Michael O'Higgins asked Judge Martin Nolan to fix a date for a costs application on behalf of his client.

Mr FitzPatrick did not attend the short hearing.

Judge Nolan put the matter back to June 5, the last day of the current legal term, when he will hear submissions from Mr FitzPatrick and the Director of Public Prosecutions on whether the State should pay the costs of the former chairman's defence.

Mr FitzPatrick is seeking to be reimbursed for legal fees arising out of his 48-day trial and the extensive pre-trial hearings and depositions.

Mr Whelan's legal team also applied to have the terms of his bail conditions eased during the brief hearing. Judge Nolan has already indicated they will receive community service instead of a jail term on condition they are deemed suitable by the Probation Service.

They were remanded on bail until July 31 when Judge Nolan will finalise sentence.

Yesterday, barrister Lorcan Staines, representing Mr Whelan, asked Judge Nolan to remove the bail condition that his client has to sign on at his local garda station at regular intervals.

Requests

Counsel also asked that Mr Whelan be allowed leave the country without garda permission once he has met with his probation officer.

Judge Nolan granted both requests after hearing the DPP had no objection.

During a further application, counsel for Mr FitzPatrick and Mr Whelan asked the court to release trial documents so they could be used in a separate civil action they are taking in the High Court.

Aileen Donnelly, who is acting for the men in the High Court, said they are taking the action against the Matheson law firm, previously known as Matheson Ormsby Prentice.

During the criminal trial, the defendants claimed that they were given legal advice by Matheson Ormsby Prentice that the Maple 10 deal was legal. Evidence of this advice was ruled inadmissible by Judge Nolan.

Ms Donnelly asked the court to release the book of evidence, transcripts and depositions from the criminal trial so that they can be used in the civil action.

Judge Nolan granted the request.

The three bankers were charged at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court with 16 counts of providing unlawful financial assistance to 16 individuals in July 2008 to buy shares in the bank.

The borrowers comprised of six members of Sean Quinn's family and the Maple 10 group of investors.

Mr Whelan also was charged with being privy to the fraudulent alteration of loan facility letters to seven individuals in October 2008.

Mr Whelan and Mr McAteer were convicted of providing the Maple 10 loans but acquitted of providing loans the Quinn family.

Mr Whelan was acquitted on the charges relating to the loan facility letters while Mr FitzPatrick was acquitted of all charges.

Mr FitzPatrick (65) of Greystones, Co Wicklow; Mr McAteer (63) of Rathgar, Dublin; and Mr Whelan (52) of Malahide, Dublin, denied all charges.

The Maple 10 transaction arose because of the need to unwind businessman Sean Quinn's 29.4pc control of the bank, which was destabilising the Anglo share price.

Irish Independent

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