Sunday 17 December 2017

FitzPatrick charges on cards after DPP move

Accountancy watchdog asked to delay its grilling of ex-Anglo Irish chairman

Shane Phelan Investigative Correspondent

THE Director of Public Prosecutions has given the strongest indication yet that criminal charges will be taken against disgraced former Anglo Irish Bank chairman Sean FitzPatrick.

DPP James Hamilton intervened last night to halt an accountancy watchdog disciplinary inquiry being convened against Mr FitzPatrick.

Mr FitzPatrick (62) had been due to appear before a public tribunal of the Chartered Accountants Regulatory Board (CARB) next month.

However, the Irish Independent has learned that Mr Hamilton requested the inquiry be postponed in case it prejudices possible charges. The intervention is the firmest signal to date that the DPP is close to making a decision on the matter.

Garda fraud squad detectives and the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement (ODCE) have been investigating matters at Anglo for the past 25 months and began submitting files to the DPP late last year.

CARB communications executive Paul Daly said: "The DPP expressed his concern that the holding of public hearings and the publication of findings might prejudice future criminal proceedings in the event that a prosecution is directed against any party arising from the investigations of the gardai and the ODCE."

CARB had been due to question Mr FitzPatrick about his role in several key events which are also being investigated by the gardai and the ODCE.

These events are:

* The movement of more than €7bn between Anglo and Irish Life & Permanent (IL&P) in a "back-to-back" deposit arrangement for the benefit of Anglo at the end of the financial year in 2008.

* The temporary transfer of up to €100m of his own loans off the books of Anglo Irish Bank.

* A loan made to former Anglo finance director Willie McAteer in 2008.

The garda fraud squad took the lead role in investigating the "back-to-back" deposits.

A file on the issue was substantially completed by the end of last year.

The ODCE has been taking the lead role in investigating loans to directors.

The High Court was told last November that files on the loan investigations would be substantially completed by this month.

Possible charges that can be considered by the DPP include offences relating to the failure to keep proper account books and breaches of rules relating to directors' loans.

Charges can also be brought in cases where it is found that an individual or group who was financially interested in the success or failure of the bank tried to influence the bank's policy.

CARB has the power to fine and ban accountants found guilty of misconduct.

It hired former Comptroller and Auditor General John Purcell to investigate the actions of Mr FitzPatrick and other bankers following the collapse of Anglo in January 2009.

He found Mr FitzPatrick had a prima facie case to answer and a public tribunal was due to get under way early next month.

But following Mr Hamilton's intervention, CARB has adjourned its proceedings against Mr FitzPatrick until October, when the situation will be reassessed.

Mr Purcell also found Mr McAteer (60), former Anglo chief executive David Drumm (44), and former IL&P finance director Peter Fitzpatrick (58) also had cases to answer.

Their tribunals were due to take place after Mr FitzPatrick's.


CARB is now considering adjourning these also following the contact from the DPP.

Mr FitzPatrick, who was arrested and questioned in March last year, has denied any wrongdoing.

He previously told the Irish Independent he would be "vindicated" if any charges were brought against him.

The former bank chairman, declared bankrupt last July with liabilities of €146m, has played down the extent of his knowledge about Anglo's troubles.

He claimed to have been unaware of Anglo's dire funding position until September 2008, four months before the bank was nationalised.

This claim has been strongly disputed by Mr Drumm.

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