Saturday 29 April 2017

Witness’s statement was changed, FitzPatrick trial hears

Sean FitzPatrick Photo: Collins Courts
Sean FitzPatrick Photo: Collins Courts
Shane Phelan

Shane Phelan

A key witness's statement was changed at a meeting where he was not present, the trial of former Anglo Irish Bank chairman Sean FitzPatrick on charges of misleading auditors has heard.

The changes, made by a lawyer for auditing firm Ernst & Young, strengthened the statement, which had been considered "weak" by a lead investigator at the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement.

The investigator, Kevin O’Connell, admitted at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court that what had happened was "quite wrong".

The changes were made to the statement of Vincent Bergin of Ernst & Young, who audited Anglo’s accounts between 2005 and 2007.

The court heard a meeting took place involving Mr O’Connell and Liam Kennedy of law form A&L Goodbody, who were Ernst & Young’s legal advisors, in November 2010.

Bernard Condon SC, for Mr FitzPatrick, said it did not appear Mr Bergin was present.

He said that at the meeting Mr Kennedy made changes to Mr Bergin’s draft statement on a screen.

The barrister described this as “brazenness” and outlined how Mr O’Connell emailed the then Director of Corporate Enforcement Paul Appleby and another colleague, Sean Ward, to say one particular change moved the statement away from being one that was “rather weak”.

The inserted paragraph stated that letters of representation, in which Mr FitzPatrick would have declared the amount of his borrowings from Anglo, appeared to be inaccurate.

Mr O’Connell said he regretted the process through which the statement was drafted, but insisted that Mr Bergin held the views contained in the final statement.

“I think ultimately if he had any issue with the wording, he would not have signed up to it,” said Mr O’Connell.

“There were instances where he objected to wording put to him.”

The court has heard claims from the defence that the statements of Mr Bergin and another Anglo auditor, Kieran Kelly, were “coached” by the ODCE.

Evidence has been heard that the statements were composed with input from the ODCE, Ernst & Young and its legal advisors during a lengthy process involving many different drafts.

Jurors have been told that two judges had ruled the process used to collect their statements was unlawful.

Mr FitzPatrick (68), of Whitshed Road, Greystones, Co Wicklow, denies 27 charges alleging the bank’s auditors were misled about the size of multi-million euro loans he had with Anglo between 2002 and 2007.

The prosecution claims he refinanced these loans close to the end of each financial year to give the impression his borrowings were less than they were.

The case continues.

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