Thursday 22 February 2018

Cardiff's day in court has left us little the wiser

Dearbhail McDonald

Dearbhail McDonald

THE arrival of Kevin Cardiff at the Anglo trial raised hopes that the Government's state of knowledge of the scheme to unwind businessman Sean Quinn's stake in Anglo Irish Bank would at last be revealed. That did not come to pass. Mr Cardiff left the witness box after just 15 minutes of polite interrogation.

He was one of two secretaries general in the Department of Finance when the country's finances went to hell in a handcart in 2008.

As a key member of the Domestic Standing Group (DSG) – the government body asked to deal with financial emergencies – Mr Cardiff was the main reporting line to the Minister for Finance.

Mr Cardiff said he first became aware of the scale of businessman Quinn's stake in Anglo "sometime in 2008" – later clarifying that he became aware in February and March of that year.

This timeline raises the interesting prospect that the executive arm of government knew about the scale of Mr Quinn's stake before the Financial Regulator did.

Patrick Neary, the former watchdog who met with Mr Quinn in January 2008, insisted he only found out the true extent on Good Friday, March 21, 2008.

Mr Cardiff and Mr Neary met on a number of occasions in 2008 as members of the DSG and Mr Cardiff also liaised with Con Horan, then deputy at the regulator's office. The DSG met on February 22 and discussed the ramifications in the market should the Quinn position become publicly known. The DSG also met on July 23 that year, almost 10 days after the 'Maple 10' deal went through.

What did the Government know about lending to individuals? Mr Cardiff's contemporaneous note of the July 23 meeting, which he read in court, stated: "Generally the deal consisted of high net worth individuals from Ireland and the US... some lending to them – likely short term."

In his short evidence, Mr Cardiff told the court the Department of Finance was concerned about the stake Mr Quinn had built up in Anglo through Contracts For Difference because it could undermine the bank and the whole Irish banking sector.

Mr Cardiff, a former assistant bond dealer in the Civil Service, is now a member of the European Court of Auditors.

Irish Independent

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