Monday 5 December 2016

Sentencing in Anglo €7.2bn fraud conspiracy trial adjourned until Friday

Shane Phelan Legal Affairs Editor

Published 25/07/2016 | 13:04

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

Three former banking executives convicted for taking part in a €7.2bn fraud conspiracy involving Anglo Irish Bank and Irish Life & Permanent will now be sentenced on Friday.

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Judge Martin Nolan said he wished to have some time to consider what sentences to impose after hearing submissions and character evidence for the three accused.

The prosecution in the case has suggested it is open to the judge to impose sentences of up to ten years, but defence lawyers made pleas for leniency.

Last June a jury at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court convicted former Anglo executives John Bowe (52) and Willie McAteer (65), and the former group chief executive of Irish Life and Permanent (IL&P) Denis Casey (56), of conspiring to make Anglo's books look €7.2bn healthier than they actual were.

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.

This morning, prosecution counsel Paul O’Higgins SC led one of the investigation team, Detective Sergeant Patrick Gillick, through a recap of evidence in the case.

He said Mr Bowe was effectively Anglo’s head of treasury, having been promised the job by its former chief executive David Drumm, but never formally appointed.

Mr O’Higgins said the evidence suggested that Mr Drumm was “an active driver and probably the conceiver of the process”.

He said that while Mr Bowe did not carry out the transactions himself, he had a role in supervising them and liaising between higher and lower management.

Mr O’Higgins said there were three telephone calls between September 25 and 30 which showed Mr Bowe’s involvement in the transactions.

“These demonstrated he was aware of the process and was reporting back,” said Mr O’Higgins.

During one phone call, on September 29, it was indicated to Mr Bowe that the transactions must be continued with as Anglo’s balance sheet was a mess.

Mr O’Higgins said Mr Bowe had “an extremely frank” conversation about the transactions with Mary Elizabeth O’Donoghue of the Financial Regulator on October 28 that year about the transactions and their purpose.

During interviews with gardaí, Mr Bowe indicated he believed the transactions were lawful ones.

Moving on the Mr McAteer, Mr O'Higgins said he was the chief risk officer at Anglo and would have given clearance from a credit risk point of view for the €7.2bn in transactions.

Mr O'Higgins said evidence was scant on Mr McAteer's actual involvement in the scheme.

However, there was a phone call on September 29 where as chief risk officer he directed Mr Bowe to continue with the transactions.

"They were running into difficulty, but he better continue with them anyway," Mr O'Higgins said was the message conveyed.

The court was told that Mr McAteer told gardaí that “to a large extent” he couldn’t remember details of the transactions.

In relation to Mr Casey, Mr O'Higgins said he was the chief executive of IL&P at the time, having been appointed in 2007.

His background was as an accountant and he had come from the insurance side of the business.

Mr O'Higgins said there was evidence of regular contact between Mr Casey and Peter Fitzpatrick, IL&P’s finance director, that pointed to his involvement in the transactions.

Mr O’Higgins said evidence was heard Mr Casey accepted he had authorised the transactions.

He said there was also evidence from an email involving Mr Casey in September 2008.

Counsel said Mr Casey gave very lengthy statements in his interviews.

Det Sgt Gillick said all three men had lost their positions since the events of 2008.

He said Mr Bowe and Mr Casey did not have previous convictions.

However, Mr McAteer had a conviction in 2014 for an offence under Section 60 of the Companies Act for which he completed 240 hours community service in lieu of a two year sentence.

Judge Nolan thanked Det Sgt Gillick for his evidence and commended the investigation team, saying it had to deal with “a very difficult and complicated matter”

The court has also heard character evidence from a number of witnesses.

John Fearon, a former senior civil servant and brother-in-law of John Bowe, told the court he had known the defendant for 30 years.

“I’ve always known John to be a good husband and father. He has done an awful lot over the years to make sure his children are well looked after and give them guidance and principles,” he said.

Mr Fearon said it was feared the pressure brought on by the collapse of Anglo and Mr Bowe’s trial might be too much for his family to bear.

But he said Mr Bowe, a father-of-three, had handled an awful lot and done his best to shield his family.

Mr Fearon said Mr Bowe had supported charitable organisations over the years and continued to do so right up to his trial.

He was regularly of assistance to the St Vincent de Paul Sunshine Fund and had volunteered to help the homeless at Merchants Quay in 2014.

Mr Fearon said Mr Bowe was an active and well respected member of the community. He described him as “truthful, straightforward and never misleading”.

Another brother-in-law, UCD associate professor Peadar Ó Gaora, said he had known Mr Bowe for 30 years.

He said the defendant had an incredible work ethic, but had never lost sight of the importance of this family.

“He is a very dedicated family man,” he said.

Mr Ó Gaora said Mr Bowe was “very modest” and never talked about promotions he had received during his career. “There was nothing ostentatious, nothing flashy about him,” he said.

During the financial crisis, it was apparent Mr Bowe was under strain. He lost weight, looked drawn and it was clear he was working hard at the bank, said Mr Ó Gaora.

In 2011 Mr Bowe suffered a major blow when his mother was diagnosed with frontal temporal lobe dementia, which brought about a very rapid decline. She subsequently died.

Mr Ó Gaora said Mr Bowe was involved in all of the phases of organising help for his mother.

He said that following media coverage as a result of the Anglo Tapes in June 2013, Mr Bowe hadn’t been able to leave his house without the media pursuing him. This went on for several months, he said.

He said Mr Bowe was a man of great fortitude and a role model for anyone experiencing difficulties.

The court also heard from Patrick O’Shea, a chartered accountant who had known Willie McAteer since the 1970s.

He said the father-of-two had lived modestly and that his wife had looked after disadvantaged people.

A former army captain, Denis Heavey, gave character evidence for Mr Casey.

He said he had known the former IL&P boss since 1995 when they were both involved with the Insurance Institute of Ireland.

He described Mr Casey as “very much hands on and committed”.

Mr Heavey said he was an ethical man who was always focussed on the greater good.

He said the conviction in this case was “inconsistent” with his own experience of Mr Casey.

Another witness, former Irish Life employee Eamon Porter, said he had known Mr Casey since the 1980s when they studied accountancy together and became friends.

He described Mr Casey as “always courteous” and “always respectful”.

Success had not affected Mr Casey and he was “always decent”, he said.

Judge Nolan said he would hand down sentences at 10.30am on Friday.

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