The trial of a former senior Anglo Irish Bank official charged with conspiring to destroy or falsify records of accounts allegedly connected to the bank's former chief executive Sean FitzPatrick has collapsed.
udge Martin Nolan told Dublin Circuit Criminal Court that he intends to direct the jury tomorrow to acquit Tiarnan O'Mahoney (58), former chief operations officer with the bank, of all counts against him.
Mr O'Mahoney of Glen Pines, Enniskerry, Co Wicklow had pleaded not guilty to conspiring to destroy, mutilate or falsify books and documents affecting or relating to the property or affairs of Anglo Irish Bank Corp PLC.
He also pleaded not guilty at Dublin Circuit Court to conspiracy to defraud the Revenue Commissioners, who were conducting an investigation into bogus non-resident accounts which may have been liable for Deposit Interest Retention Tax (DIRT).
The offences are alleged to have occurred between March 25, 2003 and December 31, 2004 and refer to eight named bank accounts, all of which were connected to Sean FitzPatrick.
Judge Nolan's ruling came after a submission from the defence arguing that the case should not go before the jury because the prosecution had not proved the necessary connection between the accused and Aoife Maguire, former assistant manager at Anglo Irish Bank and Mr O'Mahoney.
Lawyers for the Director of Public Prosecution argued the case could be decided by a jury if a direction was given by Judge Nolan to combine all the circumstantial evidence together to form a compelling conclusion.
Judge Nolan said that after considering the arguments from both sides he had reluctantly come to the conclusion that the case was “too tenuous” to go to the jury and a conviction would be “perverse”.
“The evidence of conspiracy to do the acts with which Mr O'Mahoney is charged is too tenuous, too remote in both substance and in time,” he said.
He said he was not satisfied that any properly directed jury could convict in these circumstances, as they would be asked to speculate and to fill in gaps in the evidence adduced during the trial.
Judge Nolan said there was every reason to be suspicious of Mr O'Mahoney's activities in October and November 2003, and his subsequent dealings with gardaí. But he said in the absence of formal evidence of conspiracy with Aoife Maguire this was not enough.
He said that evidence given by witnesses during the trial demonstrated that Aoife Maguire was a mere conduit for more powerful voices.
“She was being directed. Of that there is no doubt,” he said.
Judge Nolan said that the evidence showed that the defendant had an insight into the relevant accounts and that he made enquiries from other employees in relation to the deletions made to the accounts.
He also said that it was clear from evidence that Mr O'Mahoney was instrumental in getting certain people removed from the internal team, tasked with compiling a list of Anglo accounts which may have been liable for Deposit Interest Retention Tax (DIRT).
He said that it was obvious that the person who benefited from the deletion of the accounts in question was Sean FitzPatrick.
“Sean FitzPatrick used the accounts to deal in Anglo shares in a prohibited period. For a petty reward he breached the rules in relation to insider trading,” Judge Nolan said.
Judge Nolan praised the gardaí, who he said investigated the matter in an exemplary fashion.
The prosecution had alleged that Mr O'Mahoney conspired to delete six accounts from the bank's electronic record system, and to disguise the identity of two further accounts.
During the trial the court heard that all eight bank accounts were “to a greater or lesser extent” connected to Sean FitzPatrick. The alleged offences took place at a time when Revenue was investigating Irish banks in relation to bogus non-resident accounts.
In 2003 a High Court order was made with a view to getting a list of accounts which may have been liable for Deposit Interest Retention Tax (DIRT).
The prosecution's case was that Aoife Maguire, a member of staff at Anglo, approached members of the bank's IT team during the Revenue audit in 2003 and requested that certain accounts be deleted from the bank's system.
However the IT department members were uncomfortable with this instruction, and archived the accounts rather than deleting them. When the archived accounts were recovered it transpired that some details pertaining to the accounts had been altered.
The prosecution had argued that Tiarnan O'Mahoney was part of an agreement to make a deliberate, concerted effort to alter the details of these accounts and to defraud Revenue.
This trial at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court was a retrial after the Court of Appeal quashed Mr O'Mahoney's 2015 conviction in April 2016.
Judge Nolan said it would be “churlish” to prevent the media from reporting on his ruling today and that though members of the jury may read of his decision in a newspaper they should be in no doubt that they should show up for court on Wednesday when he will formally acquit Mr O'Mahoney.
The application by the defence began this morning and lasted into the afternoon.