Monday 26 September 2016

Shane Phelan: Drumm returns to loving embraces as his American dream withers and dies

Published 19/03/2016 | 02:30

David Drumm leaving court on Tuesday with friends and family after he was granted bail. Photo: Colin Keegan
David Drumm leaving court on Tuesday with friends and family after he was granted bail. Photo: Colin Keegan

As David Drumm walked through the Great Hall at the Criminal Courts of Justice on Tuesday, a free man for the first time in five months, he paused and made an emotional gesture of thanks to his wife's parents.

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A simple hug demonstrated the former Anglo Irish Bank chief executive's relief after his in-laws, Danny and Georgina O'Farrell, came up trumps for him.

The couple put up €100,000 - a huge sum for a humble taxi driver and a housewife to have to come up with - to help secure his release on bail.

It was a tacit expression of belief in their son-in-law, whose legal team repeatedly assured a judge over the previous two days that he would not flee from justice if released.

They have lodged €50,000 while the remaining €50,000 has been frozen in their bank account by court order. Should Mr Drumm (49) breach his bail terms in any way, they risk losing the money.

The hug in the cavernous hall of the court building capped off a dramatic and tension-filled few days.

A detective described in court how Mr Drumm was arrested in Dublin Airport on Monday morning, having flown in from Boston accompanied by extradition and fraud officers.

The heaving courtroom, filled with family, gardaí and media, heard that within an hour-and-a-half of touching down, he was charged with 33 offences including fraud, false accounting and conspiracy to defraud.

Dublin District Court was told the charges related to complex transactions involving millions and billions of euro and that a lengthy trial is expected.

Some of the charges carry jail terms of up to ten years. One carries an indefinite term of imprisonment.

As these details were relayed to the court, Mr Drumm sat on a bench alone, dressed in a smart navy suit. Despite his overnight flight, he looked quite alert and seemed to be following every word of the proceedings closely.

A few feet away sat members of his family and that of his wife Lorraine, who was said to be still in the US.

During pauses in the proceedings, he waved and smiled at them and blew kisses.

He seemed thrilled to see them and they delighted to see him. They were even happier when Judge Michael Walsh agreed to release him on bail.

Mr Drumm had to spend one night in jail while the formalities were worked out. But on Tuesday he tasted freedom for the first time since last October.

He will now live with his elderly mother Mary while he awaits trial, most likely at some stage in the middle of next year.

His movements will be severely restricted as he must sign on twice daily at Balbriggan Garda Station.

Dramatic as the events of this week were, they are just one chapter in what has been a rollercoaster existence for Mr Drumm in the past 11 years - with the denouement yet to come.

He was, after all, the whizz kid of Irish banking, rising to become chief executive of a major financial institution by the relatively tender age of 38 in 2005.

Mr Drumm helped Anglo grow its business exponentially and was at the helm when the bank crashed against the rocks during the global economic crisis of 2008.

A jury of his peers will decide whether some of his actions during that turbulent year were illegal.

After Anglo collapsed he moved to the US with his family to start a new life.

But, as the district court heard this week, a deal on his debts with Anglo was not approved and he filed for bankruptcy.

A detective said he still owed creditors €8.5m.

But despite being followed to the US by such crippling debts, details of his life which have emerged in court hearings and submissions show he managed to fend pretty well.

For example, despite his financial woes, his family has been able to remain living in a €1.75m home in an upmarket suburb on the outskirts of Boston.

An US extradition judge was told Mr Drumm had found work as a chief investment officer with an office asset management firm.

Despite the charges he faces, this firm said it was willing to hold the job open for him.

A character reference provided by the firm said he held a position which requires "a high level of respect, confidence and trust".

A letter from a lawyer for the firm said they "would eagerly welcome him back to continue in his current capacity".

Other submissions attested to Mr Drumm's involvement in his local community, coaching his daughters' soccer team, attending a local church and doing charity work.

The bonds of family and friendship have been a recurring theme in proceedings involving Mr Drumm since his arrest by US Marshals last October.

Three American friends had sufficient trust in him to offer to put up their homes as collateral in an effort to have him freed on bail in the US.

Their efforts were unsuccessful and the district court heard this week how Mr Drumm remained in custody for five months before his return to Ireland.

While his American dream may have crumbled - for now at least - he can be content in the knowledge that he enjoys the loyalty of his family.

Family members wrote lengthy testimonials, variously describing him as "extremely dedicated to his family and work", "a wonderful father" and "an honest man".

His mother Mary described him as her "rock" despite not having seen him in the flesh in seven years.

A sister said he was a tremendous support to her at a time of personal difficulty.

Mr Drumm's wife Lorraine told a US judge of her husband's deep bond with his two daughters and how he would never leave them.

"We are truly his world," she said.

The district court was told this week that Mrs Drumm was planning to sell their US home and move back to Ireland in the summer to be at her husband's side once their youngest daughter is finished in school.

Mr Drumm's solicitor Michael Staines also said four relatives had offered to put up their homes in support of a bail application.

In the end they were not called upon to do so.

Judge Walsh sought cash guarantees instead in the form of a €50,000 surety from Mr Drumm and the €100,000 surety provided by the Farrells.

A smiling Mr Drumm's only comment to waiting media on leaving the court was a polite: "Thanks guys."

Irish Independent

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