Friday 20 April 2018

Ex-Anglo Irish Bank official walks free from jail following successful appeal

Former assistant manager Aoife Maguire (62)
Former assistant manager Aoife Maguire (62)

Ruaidhrí Giblin

An ex-Anglo Irish Bank official jailed for conspiring to conceal bank accounts from the Revenue Commissioners has walked free from jail following a successful sentence appeal.

Aoife Maguire (62), of Rothe Abbey, South Circular Road, Kilmainham, Dublin had pleaded not guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to conspiring to delete bank accounts from the bank's internal system and conspiring to defraud the Revenue Commissioners on dates in 2003 and 2004.

Following a two month trial and nearly seven hours of deliberations, Maguire along with two co-accused were found guilty by a jury and she was sentenced to 18 months imprisonment by Judge Patrick McCartan on July 31 2015.

Maguire, who was an assistant manager at Anglo Irish Bank, successfully appealed her sentence today on a number of grounds.

The Court of Appeal quashed her original sentence, substituted a new nine month sentence in its place and suspended any unserved portion.

Giving judgment, Mr Justice Goerge Birmingham said this was a serious offence.

An additional element of seriousness is that it was committed in a publicly quoted company and in a major bank.

The banking sector was one where society is entitled to expect propriety and entitled to demand higher standards, Mr Justice Birmingham said.

Had there been a guilty plea, it may be that custody could have been avoided.

She should not be punished for pelading guilty, the judge said, but mitigation which might otherwise have been available was forfeited.

If the judge felt custody could not have been avoided it was appropriate for him to remind himself that he was sentencing someone without previous convictions and of positively good character.

Maguire had made real contributions to society as a volunteer and had stepped away from her career to care for her mother, the judge said.

Citing case law, Mr Justice Birmingham said that where a court was sentencing a first time offender of previous good character, such a sentence need not be prolonged. It was the fact of the sentence rather than the duration that was most important.

Mr Justice Birmingham said the sentencing judge erred firstly in selecting an “unnecessarily severe” sentence of 18 months and then in failing to consider suspending any part of it.

In view of the court's finding, Mr Justice Birmingham said it was unnecessary to consider further submissions made on Maguire's behalf such as interactions between various officials or the fact that there is no open prison for Maguire to serve her sentence unlike her male co-accused.

There was now an “implicit admission” of wrongdoing in that the appeal had been confined to an appeal against sentence only, Mr Justice Birmingham said.

The court also had regard to various testimonials.

The Governor of the Dochas women's prison stated that Maguire had participated in all activities and attended classes in history, woodwork, knitting, photography, music appreciation and was studying Italian. Her teachers found her to be an excellent student.

She got on really well in prison, was extremely undemanding and helped others where possible.She also regularly assisted women who were nervous of being in prison for the first time, the court heard.

Some of the language was echoed in a testimonial submitted by a Fr McDermott from the Bluebell area who stated that he knew her for 10 years and described her gentle and modest demeanour as an inspiration.

Mr Justice Birmingham, who sat with Mr Justice Garrett Sheehan and Mr Justice Alan Mahon, quashed her original sentence, substituted in its place a term of nine months and suspended any unserved portion.

There were audible expressions of relief from about a dozen of Maguire's supporters in court as the sentence was delivered. One person said “she's out”.

She was required to enter into her own bond of €100 to keep the peace and be of good behaviour for one year. When asked if she undertook to be so bound, she said “I, do” and subsequently thanked the court.

Mr Justice Birmingham said Maguire was an assistant manager in the bank. In the late 1990s the Revenue were examining financial institutions to see if any DIRT was payable but Anglo had a nil liability.

There followed a tax amnesty and a number of customers from the bank came forward to disclose what have become known as bogus non-resident accounts.

This renewed interest from the Revenue in the affairs of Anglo and the High Court ordered the release from the bank of a list of of non resident account holders.

The bank embarked on an audit focused on such accounts and specifially those that were stated to be DIRT exempt.

As part of the audit process Anglo was required to provide a list of all relevant accounts. However, the list was not comprehensive. Some half dozen or so accounts were deleted.

Mr Justice Birmingham said the exercise to exclude certain accounts was not undertaken for no reason.

The exclusion from the documentation of the accounts in question required action on the part of the bank IT department and the evidence was that it was Maguire who told the IT people what it was they were to do.

Her status in the bank was such that she was passing on 'messages from upstairs', the judge said.

Counsel for Ms Maguire, Patrick Gageby SC, had submitted that the judge was of the opinion that the issue of loss of revenue had never been resolved. However, on the same day, a detective sergreant stated that there had been no loss to the Revenue.

It was a factual error, he said, that was relevant in sentencing.

Secondly, Mr Gageby submitted that the judge erred in pegging the case on the upper end of the spectrum. Mr Gageby said this was a discrete offence in a class of its own unlike any other conspiracy.

Mr Gageby further submitted a ground in relation to conditions of confinement. Maguire had found herself in Mountjoy women's prison while her co-accused were in Loughlinn House open prison.

She had a great interest in sporting and outdoor activities, Mr Gageby said, and that was a matter the court could “address its attention to”.

Mr Gageby submitted that the judge erred when stating, on three separate occasions, that Maguire had interactions with Mr Gillespie, the bank's former head of compliance.

However, Mr Gillespie never had any contact with his client, Mr Gageby said.

It seemed the judge had “mistaken a large portion, perhaps, of his notes,” Mr Gageby said.

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