Wednesday 28 June 2017

Top bankers face quiz after FitzPatrick arrest

Anglo loans probe at 'crucial stage'

Shane Phelan and Fiach Kelly

GARDAI will question a number of senior bankers associated with Sean FitzPatrick as their investigation into scandal-hit lender Anglo Irish Bank enters "a crucial stage".

Detectives will turn the screw on the probe, which has been ongoing for over a year, following Mr FitzPatrick's dramatic early morning arrest yesterday.

Officers from the Garda Bureau of Fraud Investigation spent the day quizzing Mr FitzPatrick under legislation dealing with false accounting.

Breaches of these laws carry a penalty of up to 10 years in prison.

Detectives have adopted a strategy of holding off on questioning a number of people until they are satisfied they are in a position to put specific allegations to them.

Investigators are now said to be at that stage in a number of areas of the inquiry.

A flurry of garda activity is expected amid hopes a file could be with the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) in the next few months.

Gardai arrived at Mr FitzPatrick's home in Greystones, Co Wicklow, at 6.20am yesterday morning. He was detained under Section 4 of the Criminal Justice Act and brought to Bray garda station.

There he was questioned under Section 10 of the Criminal Justice (Theft and Fraud Offences) Act, which relates to false accounting.

A team of officers also conducted a search of the former Anglo chairman and chief executive's home for several hours. They left the property at 1.10pm carrying a cardboard box used for storing documents and a large black holdall.

Mr FitzPatrick can be held without charge for a maximum of 24 hours. He was initially held for two six-hour periods yesterday. But his period of detention was extended by a further 12 hours shortly before 7pm on the orders of a garda chief superintendent. When rest periods are taken into account, Mr FitzPatrick's questioning could continue until at least midday today.

The investigation, led by Assistant Commissioner Derek Byrne, has been focusing on the movement of €7.45bn in deposits between Anglo and Irish Life and Permanent to bolster Anglo's books.

It is also probing an allegation that attempts were made to conceal details of loans to Mr FitzPatrick from shareholders and the controversial loan of €450m to a "golden circle" of 10 investors. More than 100 people have already co-operated with garda questioning.

Mr FitzPatrick became the first person to be arrested as part of the probe.

It is not clear whether the other key figures yet to be interviewed will also be arrested or will simply be asked to co-operate in the giving of statements.

Former chief executive David Drumm is among those yet to be questioned.

Pressure

Yesterday's developments heaped further pressure on Mr FitzPatrick, who is also facing legal action from Anglo.

The now-nationalised bank is seeking to recover €70m in unpaid loans he received.

Mr FitzPatrick stopped servicing a number of loans last year. He managed to conceal his borrowing from shareholders over a period of eight years up to 2007 by temporarily transferring the loans to another bank before Anglo's books were audited. His borrowings from the bank totalled €129m at one stage.

In a carefully worded statement yesterday, which did not mention Mr FitzPatrick by name, Finance Minister Brian Lenihan said: "I have always stated that there is an extensive garda investigation under way. I have been cautious not to prejudice that investigation and I am eager to see justice take its course."

Fine Gael's justice spokesperson Charlie Flanagan said he was pleased "the criminal justice system is progressing in a way that was intended".

Labour's finance spokeswoman Joan Burton described the arrest as "long overdue".

"I think that people in Ireland have been incredibly frustrated and angry that there have been no legal proceedings against any of the senior bankers involved in the banking crash."

Irish Independent

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