Saturday 21 April 2018

Lawyers enter phase one of long and complex process

Tom Brady, Tim Healy and Tom Tuite

Former Anglo Irish Bank chairman Sean FitzPatrick is to go on trial in the new year on charges arising from alleged financial irregularities before the bank collapsed four years ago.

He became the third senior Anglo executive to appear before Dublin district court within 24 hours when he was charged yesterday morning.

The High Court heard later that the Director of Public Prosecutions had taken the view that there was enough evidence at this stage to bring charges against Mr FitzPatrick and his two colleagues, Willie McAteer and Pat Whelan.

Lawyers for the DPP said that the charges represented the culmination of a very long and complex examination.

They also said there had to be a balance between getting cases to court and "getting it right".

Mr FitzPatrick was remanded on bail until October 8 when a book of evidence will be served on him. But it will then take several months before the case comes to trial in the circuit criminal court.

All three faced charges arising from alleged breaches of the Companies Act, suggesting they had provided unlawful financial help to a group of investors and to members of the family of bankrupt business tycoon, Sean Quinn, to buy shares in Anglo at a time when its value was sinking in 2008.

The massive investigation, which was launched in February 2009, will now switch focus on to the other four strands of the inquiries.

This move puts a fresh raft of officials under the spotlight.

A decision will be made by the DPP on whether further charges should emanate from the inquiries.

Files on the four outstanding strands have already been submitted to the DPP and are currently under consideration.

Unlikely

But she is unlikely to make a determination on charges until the autumn.

Meanwhile, the High Court was told yesterday that it is likely to take three years to complete the criminal trials of people charged as a result of the investigation.

Mr Justice Peter Kelly remarked that the investigation was taking "longer than desirable" and rejected the request from the DPP to extend the investigation for another three years on the grounds that he wanted to keep progress in all areas under review.

If he extended the orders for the three-year period sought, progress might not be as expeditious as hoped, he added.

He agreed to a six-month extension, allowing the retention of documents seized from the bank for investigation.

Millions of files have been seized from the bank since the investigation began.

High Court orders are required to allow the powers of seizure to be extended over the files and other documentation and the court must be kept informed of the progress of the investigation in the meantime.

The judge had already been told that the delay in fully completing all five strands of the investigation arose from several factors, including the reluctance of persons regarded as key witnesses to provide statements.

Delays were also attributed to awaiting legal advices on files sent to the DPP.

Progress was made when new legislation was enacted last year to compel reluctant witnesses to provide required documentation and information.

The four outstanding strands involve the "back-to-back" deposit arrangement between Anglo and Irish Life and Permanent for the benefit of Anglo at the end of its financial year; providing loans by Anglo to former directors and the regular "warehousing" of some of the loans in the Irish Nationwide Building Society at the end of the Anglo financial year; the provision of a loan to an Anglo director in circumstances which might have broken the law; and giving possible misleading or false information in public statements from Anglo.

Irish Independent

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