Tuesday 21 November 2017

Prosecution urges jury to zoom in on nature of the loans

Dearbhail McDonald

Dearbhail McDonald

FOR more than 10 weeks now, court room number 1 in the Criminal Courts of Justice (CCJ) has lain abandoned and forlorn.

It was earmarked as an overflow court for the anticipated crowds that would flock to see the trial of three former Anglo Irish Bank executives.

The crowds never came.

But courtroom number 1 may be deployed into action after all.

Yesterday, court 19, the sixth-floor home to the Anglo trial presided over by Circuit Court Judge Martin Nolan, had a distinctly claustrophobic feel as the beginning of the end came into sight.

The numbers swelled as family members of the accused men, gardai, journalists, members of the public, transition-year students and well-heeled lawyers maintaining "watching briefs" on behalf of interested parties appeared in significant numbers.

Yesterday, Judge Nolan told the jury that it will not have to consider prosecution claims that Mr FitzPatrick knew €169m was lent to businessman Sean Quinn's wife and five children to unwind the businessman's secret stake in the bank.

The judge also directed Pat Whelan, the bank's former head of lending in Ireland, be found not guilty of seven separate counts, which alleged that he was privy to the fraudulent alteration of loan-facility letters to seven individuals.

Mr McAteer and Mr Whelan still face charges in relation to the Quinn loans: all three men stand accused of knowing or permitting loans to the so-called Maple 10 'heroes', longstanding high-net-worth clients who borrowed €45m each from Anglo to buy the bank's shares.

For more than two months, the jury has heard tales of the catastrophic effects on the Irish banking system wrought at the height of the global financial crisis when Anglo executed the July 2008 lending scheme.

But beginning the prosecution's closing speech, Senior Counsel Paul O'Higgins presented a narrow, legal case, which he said "absolutely" points to the trio's guilt.

He told the jurors that they were entitled to look at the evidence "in the round".

But he told them to disregard whether or not the Financial Regulator approved or encouraged the deal.

He told them not to rely on the role played by Morgan Stanley and the bank's "stellar reputation of probity", to put out of their minds whether others should have been prosecuted and not to ponder why some received immunity from prosecution.

These matters, he said – along with Judge Nolan's earlier ruling to ignore any question of legal advice – are legally irrelevant. What matters, the prosecution claims, is whether the lending scheme could ever be considered in the bank's ordinary course of business.

The prosecution insists that the lending was in no way in the ordinary course of business and that the men took no steps to prevent what took place, that they authorised or permitted the "exceptional" lending.

The trial continues.

Irish Independent

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