Wednesday 17 January 2018

Sean FitzPatrick sits among addicts and shoplifters as he faces 16 charges

HE was once the country's most successful banker, lauded by his peers and top businessmen in boardrooms around the world.

But yesterday, Sean FitzPatrick sat in the dock of court number one at Dublin District Court, surrounded by drug addicts, shoplifters and other defendants -- an unlikely dapper figure among them in his navy blazer with brass buttons.

The former Anglo Irish Bank chief was charged with permitting the bank to give "unlawful financial assistance" to 16 named individuals for the purpose of, or in connection with the purchase of shares in Anglo to unlawfully prop up its share price.

It is alleged that unlawful loans to buy shares were given out between July 10 and July 17, 2008 to 15 people -- which include the so-called 'Maple Ten' group of Irish investors and several members of Sean Quinn's family -- and from July 17 until July 30 of the same year to Patricia Quinn, the wife of the now bankrupt quarry tycoon Sean. Anglo was subsequently nationalised and rebranded as the Irish Bank Resolution Corporation (IBRC).

Its collapse cost taxpayers about €30bn.

At dawn yesterday, fresh off a flight from the United States, Mr FitzPatrick arrived into the chaotic surrounds of a typical day at Dublin District Court.

The room was packed with gardai and journalists waiting for his arrival.

Also waiting in court was the former banker's sister, Joyce O'Connor, who looked pained as a drug addict who had pushed in beside her coughed and spat repeatedly into a tissue.

A string of appearances by defendants facing drugs, shoplifting, minor assault and public-order charges came first, as a court clerk valiantly attempted to stem the rising levels of chatter in the seats.

Arrested at 5.37am by mutual arrangement at Dublin Airport and then taken to the Bridewell garda station, the 64-year-old former businessman emerged from the back of the station at 9.12am with his head cast downwards and a dark coat draped over his hands.

He was the last of three prisoners loaded into a garda van which departed for the Criminal Courts of Justice Complex at Parkgate Street in Dublin.

Mr FitzPatrick briefly shared a holding cell with several other defendants, before being ushered upstairs to the courtroom where, at 11.11am, his name was called in brisk tones.

"Animal," hissed one of the other defendants, at the sight of Mr FitzPatrick, prosperous-looking in his blazer, blue shirt, pink spotted tie and chinos.

"Good morning, Mr FitzPatrick," said Judge Cormac Dunne, urging him to sit down.

Mr FitzPatrick's appearance was in stark contrast to his fellow defendants, who mostly wore tracksuits of dubious cleanliness.

After looking briefly around the courtroom for his sister, he kept his eyes fixed on the middle distance. At one stage, however, he looked up and the expression in his eyes betrayed an anxiety that belied his confident appearance.

Detective Sergeant Brian Mahon, of the Garda Bureau of Fraud Investigation, told the judge that the former banker had replied "I do" when asked if he understood why he had been arrested.

When read each of the 16 charges, Mr FitzPatrick had replied: "No comment."

"That was his express reply to each charge?" queried the judge and Det Sgt Mahon agreed that it had been.

Mr FitzPatrick's solicitor Michael Staines was eager to establish that his client had co-operated fully with the garda investigation, emphasising that he had been in regular contact with them about his travel plans.

Once he became aware that gardai were seeking to arrest him, he contacted them through his solicitor and arranged to meet them at the airport.

The court conducted its business quickly. Mr FitzPatrick was allowed bail on more or less the same terms as his two former colleagues at Anglo Irish Bank, who had been released the previous day.

His sister furnished the necessary €10,000 independent surety, he must sign on every Wednesday at a garda station -- Irishtown was specifically requested by his own legal representatives -- and he must give 48 hours' notice to gardai if he intends to move home or travel outside the jurisdiction.

Anxiety

He was not requested to surrender his passport.

Some minutes later, the bail paperwork complete, Mr FitzPatrick and his sister put their signatures on the bond document and he thanked the judge.

Free to go, the former Anglo chairman made his way to a consultation room for a brief discussion with his lawyers.

Then, looking a little dazed by the frenzy of flashing cameras and brandished microphones, he made a beeline for a taxi with blacked-out windows which had waited outside and was gone without a word.

Irish Independent

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