TAPE RECORDINGS from inside doomed Anglo Irish Bank reveal for the first time how the bank's top executives lied to the Government about the true extent of losses at the institution.
The astonishing tapes show senior manager John Bowe, who had been involved in negotiations with the Central Bank, laughing and joking as he tells another senior manager, Peter Fitzgerald, how Anglo was luring the State into giving it billions of euro.
Mr Fitzgerald had not been involved in the negotiations with the Central Bank and has confirmed he was unaware of any strategy or intention to mislead the authorities. Mr Bowe, in a statement last night, categorically denied that he had misled the Central Bank.
The audio recordings are from the bank's own internal telephone system and date from the heart of the financial crisis that brought the State to its knees in September 2008.
Anglo itself was within days of complete meltdown – and in the years ahead would eat up €30bn of taxpayer money. Mr Bowe speaks about how the State had been asked for €7bn to bail out Anglo – but Anglo's negotiators knew all along this was not enough to save the bank.
The plan was that once the State began the flow of money, it would be unable to stop.
Mr Bowe is asked by Mr Fitzgerald how they had come up with the figure of €7bn. He laughs as he is taped saying: "Just, as Drummer (then-CEO David Drumm) would say, 'picked it out of my arse'."
He also says: "If they (Central Bank) saw the enormity of it up front, they might decide they have a choice. You know what I mean?
"They might say the cost to the taxpayer is too high . . . if it doesn't look too big at the outset . . . if it looks big, big enough to be important, but not too big that it kind of spoils everything, then, then I think you have a chance. So I think it can creep up."
Mr Fitzgerald, the Director of Retail Banking, is heard saying: "Yeah. They've got skin in the game and that is the key."
Mr Bowe's comments in the audio recording reveal that Anglo's strategy was to lure the State in, leaving taxpayers with no choice but to continue to provide loans to "support their money".
The recording also shows Mr Bowe and Mr Fitzgerald laughing as they say how there is no realistic chance of ever repaying the loans.
For the first time, taxpayers get an exclusive insight into the banking shenanigans that cost Ireland our sovereignty.
In its heyday, Anglo Irish Bank was the ultimate symbol of the Celtic Tiger. The bank's tiny number of branches belied the extent to which it had reached deep into the beating heart of the boom. When it came to property deals in particular, Anglo was involved in everything and anything.