Saturday 24 February 2018

State to challenge Sean Fitzpatrick’s application for ‘enormous’ legal costs, court told

Sean FitzPatrick
Sean FitzPatrick

Conor Gallagher

The State is challenging the application of Former Anglo Irish Bank chairman Sean FitzPatrick to be granted the “enormous” legal costs he incurred during his recent criminal trial.

Mr FitzPatrick was acquitted last March of engaging in an illegal share support scheme. His fellow Anglo directors Pat Whelan and William McAteer were convicted on ten counts of providing illegal loans to the group of investors known as the Maple Ten to prop up the Anglo share price.

The former chairman’s costs hearing began at 2pm this afternoon before the trial judge, Martin Nolan. Mr Fitzpatrick is not in court for the hearing.

Judge Nolan has heard from Mr FitzPatrick’s counsel, Michael O’Higgins SC, that he is seeking his entire costs arising from his 48 trial and the extensive pre-trial hearings and depositions. His defence team comprised of a two junior and one senior counsel as well a solicitor. Counsel described the legal bill as “enormous” but did not specify a figure.

Counsel asked where the justice would be “in letting Mr FitzPatrick leave the courtroom with his pockets bugling with a huge legal bill.”

He said the case against Mr FitzPatrick was based solely on his answers in interview. He said he co-operated fully with investigators and answered all questions fully.

He said his client has being “fully vindicated” and that his request for his costs is “unanswerable”.

The hearing is ongoing and, Paul O’Higgins SC, will respond for the State when Mr FitzPatrick’s counsel finishes his submission. A decision is not expected today.

The three bankers were charged at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court with 16 counts of providing unlawful financial assistance to 16 individuals in July 2008 to buy shares in the bank. The borrowers comprised of six members of Sean Quinn’s family and the Maple Ten group of investors.

Whelan also was charged with being privy to the fraudulent alteration of loan facility letters to seven individuals in October 2008.

Whelan and McAteer were convicted of providing the Maple Ten loans but acquitted of providing loans the Quinn family. Whelan was acquitted on the charges relating to the loan facility letters while Mr FitzPatrick was acquitted of all charges.

Mr FitzPatrick (65) of Greystones, Co Wicklow, McAteer (63) of Rathgar, Dublin and Whelan (52) of Malahide, Dublin denied all charges.

The Maple Ten transaction arose because of the need to unwind businessman Sean Quinn’s 29.4 per cent control of the bank which was destabilising the Anglo share price.

Mr FitzPatrick’s counsel pointed out that, out of all the non-executive directors at Anglo, his client was the only one who was arrested, interviewed and prosecuted. He said other non-executives were allowed give their statements through a corporate solicitor.

He said there could be fewer people more entitled to his costs than Mr FitzPatrick, given how he dealt with the case. He said his client has been “fully vindicated” and that his request for his costs is “unanswerable”.

Counsel for the State said the DPP rejected “absolutely” that Mr FitzPatrick was chosen for prosecution “because he was the public face of Anglo.”

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