Wednesday 21 March 2018

Muffled sobs pierce court as Anglo Three are jailed

Defence asks why 'beneficiary' FitzPatrick not before court, writes Dearbhail McDonald

Bernard Daly
Bernard Daly
Tiarnan O'Mahoney
Aoife Maguire
Sean FitzPatrick
Judge Patrick McCartan
Dearbhail McDonald

Dearbhail McDonald

Aoife Maguire started to shake violently the moment the first "guilty" verdict fell. It would be another four guilty counts before the former assistant manager at Anglo Irish Bank's name and fate - guilty - was read into the record at Dublin's Circuit Criminal Court. Her sobs, muffled, nonetheless pierced courtroom 19: the 63-year-old appeared to collapse into the dock as trial judge Patrick McCartan ruled that she and her two co-accused should be remanded in custody immediately.

The verdicts took only a few minutes to confirm, but it felt like an eternity before the Anglo Three made history by becoming the first bankers to spend a night in jail since the near collapse of the Irish economy.

The trial of the three former Anglo bankers - including its former Chief Operating Officer Tiarnan O'Mahoney and Company Secretary Bernard Daly - largely passed under the radar for the last two months.

Perhaps it was crisis fatigue, or the mind-numbing intricacies of Irish tax laws and the mercurial concept of conspiracy that caused many to turn the page.

In one sense, however, the charges against O'Mahoney, one of the titans of the Celtic Tiger era, and his two former colleagues, are an easier notion to grasp than other 'white collar' cases that have come before the courts in recent years.

At heart, the trio were charged with trying to hide (from the Revenue Commissioners) accounts connected to Sean FitzPatrick, the former CEO and Chairman of the now defunct and disgraced bank. As a result of the unanimous verdicts, they are now guilty of what are essentially tax and company law offences that can attract significant custodial sentences - the sentence hearing falls today.

The prosecution has its origins in a High Court order obtained against Anglo in March 2003. The Circuit Criminal Court heard that to comply with that order, a team was set up in the bank led by Daly, with O'Mahoney in a supervisory role - Maguire was appointed by O'Mahoney to report directly to him.

The order required the bank to provide information about non-resident accounts and Revenue began an audit in October 2003.

Prosecutor Dominic McGinn said that when that happened, a decision was taken to hide from Revenue accounts connected with Mr FitzPatrick.

Mr McGinn said there was no dispute that an account in the name of John Peter O'Toole (Sean FitzPatrick's brother-in-law) was left off a list of non-resident deposit accounts supplied in a list to Revenue in November 2003.

Bank records showed numerous transactions made on the account by Mr FitzPatrick in Dublin.

And he told the jury six accounts were set up to trade off-shore or manage property and were held in the Isle of Man or Jersey, but they were Anglo accounts.

The trial heard there were eight accounts in all connected to Mr FitzPatrick and that there were unusual practices going on with the O'Toole account, including that it was used to deal stock during the periods when bank directors were barred from trading. There were also large sums of money transferred in and out of the account by Mr FitzPatrick near the time of the bank's year-end returns. But Mr FitzPatrick was not on trial.

Of the three, Aoife Maguire was undoubtedly the most junior. An assistant manager, she was - unlike O'Mahoney and Daly - not an officer of the bank. It was the prosecution's case that O'Mahoney and Daly were involved in arranging the list for Revenue - and had an agenda to keep O'Toole off it. Maguire stood accused of telling IT personnel at Anglo to delete several accounts from the bank's core banking system (CBS) and of ensuring that the O'Toole account was not on a list of accounts handed over to Revenue.

They may not have been top dogs, but Anglo's IT staff were evidently wary and refused to delete the accounts, opting to archive them instead such that the material was ultimately accessible even if they weren't visible on the bank's computer system.

In his closing speech on behalf of Maguire, Patrick Gageby SC said that she was "basically a gofer", a minion and small person who had been left to answer for all.

Senior Counsel Sean Guerin represented Bernard Daly and said that his client's "whole role" was to present information to the Revenue that other people had gathered.

Mr Guerin insisted that Mr Daly was honest and straightforward in all of his dealings with the Revenue and said that another employee (Michael Chastain who was not before the court) removed the names from the list to be given to the Revenue. And he maintained that the only evidence against Bernard Daly was an alleged conversation sometime in 2003 with Brian Gillespie (the bank's then-head of compliance) in which Daly was alleged to have asked Mr Gillespie if he was willing to delete an account if asked by Mr FitzPatrick.

Daly had no recollection of this conversation, the court heard.

Brian Gillespie was a key witness in the trial and claimed under cross examination that Tiarnan O'Mahoney instructed him to leave the O'Toole account out of the list captured by the court order.

Mr Gillespie told the trial that Sean FitzPatrick - who asked him specifically about the inclusion of the O'Toole account - made it clear to him that a family member of his wasn't to be returned to the Revenue.

Tiarnan O'Mahoney maintained his composure as the counts were read by the court registrar, offering support to Maguire as she trembled uncontrollably.

The most senior of the three in Anglo at that time, his lawyer Brendan Grehan SC said one of the most extraordinary features of the trial was the fact that the prosecution's purported orchestrator in chief - Sean FitzPatrick - was not on the [defendant's] bench even though it was clear he was the perceived beneficiary.

The prosecution claimed that Mr O'Mahoney was, amongst other things, involved in one of two altered accounts as he took out a loan - with Mr FitzPatrick - using the account to do a share deal. But Mr FitzPatrick was not before the court, even though the prosecution maintained that there were unusual practices going on with the O'Toole account including evidence that it was used to deal stock during the periods when bank directors were barred from trading.

The absence of Sean FitzPatrick was seized upon by the defence teams.

Mr Grehan, for O'Mahoney, said FitzPatrick was like the man on the grassy knoll or "Macavity the mystery cat".

"His paws are all over it, but he's nowhere to be found," said Mr Grehan.

Mr Gageby, for Maguire, likened the case to the sinking of the Concordia where the captain had made an early dart for the lifeboat - leaving the women and children behind.

In a way, the trial and its resounding outcome, raises more questions than answers.

If, as the DPP claims, Mr FitzPatrick tried to stop the O'Toole account being returned to the Revenue, it is not unreasonable to ask why wasn't he too charged?

If FitzPatrick, as the prosecution said, was "the thread running through all the charges", why wasn't he on trial?

Today, corporate Ireland will hold its breath as Judge McCartan decides the trio's sentence. After one night in jail, will they spend many more?

Irish Independent

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