Saturday 18 November 2017

Former Anglo Irish Bank official cleared of conspiracy charges

Tiarnan O'Mahoney, from Enniskerry in Co Wicklow, the bank's former chief operations officer
Tiarnan O'Mahoney, from Enniskerry in Co Wicklow, the bank's former chief operations officer

Andrew Phelan

FORMER senior Anglo Irish Bank official Tiarnan O’Mahoney has been cleared of conspiracy charges.

The ex chief operations officer at the now-defunct bank was formally acquitted of all counts against him at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court this morning.

Judge Martin Nolan directed a jury to acquit Mr O’Mahoney this morning after his trial collapsed yesterday.

Mr O'Mahoney (58) 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 were alleged to have occurred between March 25, 2003 and December 31, 2004 and referred to eight named bank accounts, all of which were allegedly connected to Anglo’s former chief executive Sean FitzPatrick.

Mr O’Mahoney, dressed in a black suit, white shirt and purple and green tie did not address the court during the two-minute proceedings.

Earlier, he had stood chatting with his legal team, with a newspaper tucked under his arm before the judge’s arrival.

When the jury filed into the court, Judge Nolan addressed them.

“In your absence an application was made on behalf of Mr Tiernan O’Mahoney, the defendant, that the case shouldn’t go to the jury by reason of an absence of evidence,” Judge Nolan said. “I acceded to that application and therefore, the case will not go to the jury.”

The judge told the foreman of the jury there was an issue paper which stated “not guilty by direction” and the only action needed was for him to sign it.

Judge Nolan told the jury the application was not unusual and was “quite appropriate” to make at the end of the State’s case. The defence was entitled to make the application and he as a judge had to consider it.

He told the jurors their service was at an end and thanked them for serving in what had been a “long trial" before discharging them.

It was an “unusual type of case,” he said.

"Mr O'Mahony can be discharged," said Judge Nolan.

Mr O'Mahoney did not respond when asked by journalists outside the Criminal Courts of Justice for his reaction to his acquittal.

Judge Nolan's decision to direct an acquittal came after the defence argued that the case 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 Judge Nolan could have directed the jury to combine all the circumstantial evidence together to form a “compelling conclusion.”

However, Judge Nolan concluded that the case was “too tenuous” to go to the jury and a conviction would be “perverse”.

He said he was not satisfied that any properly directed jury could convict, as they would be asked to speculate and to fill in gaps in the evidence.

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 evidence demonstrated that Aoife Maguire was a mere conduit for more powerful voices and was being “directed.”

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 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 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.

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 was a retrial after the Court of Appeal quashed Mr O'Mahoney's 2015 conviction in April 2016.

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