Saturday 23 June 2018

'I'm going to keep asking the thick question' - excerpts from the Anglo Tapes that Drumm's team tried to stop jury hearing

  • Now-infamous Anglo tapes were central to the prosecution’s case against David Drumm
  • Phone calls heard by the jury were largely recordings of conversations made between bankers at the height of the financial crisis of 2008
  • Disgraced former Anglo Irish Bank CEO David Drumm's legal team tried to stop the jury hearing tapes
Former Anglo Irish Bank executive David Drumm outside Dublin's Central Criminal Court, after he was found guilty of two fraud charges. Photo: Brian Lawless/PA
Former Anglo Irish Bank executive David Drumm outside Dublin's Central Criminal Court, after he was found guilty of two fraud charges. Photo: Brian Lawless/PA

Andrew Phelan

THE now-infamous Anglo tapes were central to the prosecution’s case against David Drumm.

The phone calls heard by the jury were largely recordings of conversations made between bankers at the height of the financial crisis of 2008.

They were made with the knowledge of the bank officials involved, for their own protection in the event of issues such as queries on deals. However, on at least one occasion, according to his defence, Drumm was unaware he was being recorded on a colleague’s phone.

The tapes also included exchanges between Anglo officials and staff at the Central Bank and Financial Regulator.

The prosecution considered the tapes to be the “best evidence” in the trial for a number of reasons. Because of the length of time it took for the case to go to trial, witnesses could not always remember details of what took place. The tapes provided a contemporaneous record of the events as they were actually happening.

Bankers were heard discussing how the transactions would be arranged and carried out and this was important in setting out the factual circumstances of the case and helping the jury to understand the mechanics of Anglo's circular ILP deal.

Judge Karen O’Connor said they were “real evidence” and provided an explanation of the transactions to the jury.

Now, the Irish Independent reports that disgraced former Anglo Irish Bank CEO David Drumm's legal team tried to stop the jury hearing recordings of some of the most revealing conversations during the financial crisis.

After a lengthy legal challenge to the admissibility of the tapes failed before the trial opened, defence lawyers then asked Judge Karen O'Connor to rule some of the more contentious excerpts inadmissible.

During these legal arguments in the jury's absence, the defence said the Anglo Tapes had become a "cultural phenomenon" which the court had to approach carefully. Ultimately, the judge decided the jurors were entitled to hear these phone calls.

On Wednesday, Drumm (51) was found guilty by a jury of taking part in a €7.2bn conspiracy to defraud the markets, as well as false accounting which invovled a circular flow of funds onto Anglo's balance sheet from Irish Life and Permanent (ILP) during the financial crisis of 2008.

In its initial objections to all the tapes, the defence argued the warrants to get the recordings had been invalid, the recordings were illegal and their provenance had not been properly established. Judge O'Connor rejected this.

Then, during the course of the trial, separate objections were raised to individual clips.

This included a call between Drumm and Anglo's head of capital markets, John Bowe, in which Drumm described the Financial Regulator as "f**king Freddie f**king Fly" and the Central Bank as "that f**king shower of clowns down on Dame Street". The defence argued it was just a "snapshot" and it was unfair to pluck it out.

Bernard Condon SC, defending, said Drumm had not known he was being taped.

Mr Condon said the so-called Anglo Tapes, or "what is now hashtag Anglo Tapes" were a "cultural phenomenon" and there were hundreds of thousands of hits on Google. The tapes were now "of colossal cultural significance" so the approach to their admissibility should be careful, he said.

In the reference to Drumm saying "you can't take it off the Regulator because it would appear on the balance sheet", Mr Condon argued that "he's actually talking about the Central Bank balance sheet" and not Anglo's. "It has nothing to do with what the jury is dealing with, which is Anglo's balance sheet," Mr Condon said. The "commentary" was something that was said in "a stressful moment."

"There is no doubt some of it doesn't make him sound good," Mr Condon said, but one had to be cautious about it.

But Paul O'Higgins SC, prosecuting, said: "It is relevant in this case that the Regulator was someone of no particular concern to Mr Drumm except as a bit of a nuisance.

"This is Mr Drumm saying you can't take it off f**king Freddie f**king Fly. Freddie the Fly is a cartoon fly. A superhero, a minuscule person who went buzzing around and annoying people," Mr O'Higgins said. "So it's the suggestion of the impotent regulator or Central Bank."

The defence also failed to have a call between Matt Moran and John Bowe ruled inadmissible. In the call on September 22, 2008, they discussed approaching Credit Suisse to do a deal similar to the ILP transaction.

Mary Rose Gearty SC, prosecuting, said Mr Drumm was acting to support other Irish banks at the behest of the Central Bank and the supposed motivation behind the ILP deal was the "green jersey agenda". In the call, an identical proposal is being made in relation to a non-Irish bank, Ms Gearty said.

Just because the Irish banks were being asked to assist each other did not mean that Irish banks stopped trying to get funds elsewhere, Brendan Grehan SC, defending, said. It was two individuals discussing something they might do and it never came to anything, he said.

Judge O'Connor was satisfied the call was admissible.

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