Sunday 19 November 2017

Nationwide paid €11,500 in cash for Fingleton's watch

Former Irish Nationwide chief Michael Fingleton
Former Irish Nationwide chief Michael Fingleton
Laura Noonan

Laura Noonan

THE €11,500 watch bought as a parting gift for disgraced Irish Nationwide chief Michael Fingleton was paid for in cash, it emerged last night.

And the Anglo Irish Bank investigation into the gift is separately examining a number of "discrepancies" relating to Mr Fingleton's expenses.

Anglo chief Mike Aynsley confirmed the broadening scope of the probe last night, as he revealed that internal building society records show the watch was paid for in cash at a Dublin jewellers.

The bank is also still trying to piece together the make and model of the watch. The information isn't included in the receipt for the watch, which also indicates that the gift was paid for in cash.

Anglo has been investigating the circumstances surrounding Mr Fingleton's retirement gift since it came to Mr Aynsley's attention a fortnight ago. The bank is currently getting to grips with Nationwide's "legacy issues" following the two institutions' recent merger.

Mr Aynsley last night declined to comment in detail on the investigation's progress, but said it was drawing on an "enormous amount of work" that had already been done by Nationwide management.

"That work also highlighted a number of other discrepancies which we will follow up on," he added. It is understood that these discrepancies relate to aspects of Mr Fingleton's expenses. Mr Fingleton could not be reached for comment last night, but it is believed that Nationwide has already written to its former chief about some of the issues, and that he has disputed some points.

Mr Aynsley also wrote to Mr Fingleton seeking the return of the watch, or cash equivalent, along with the return of a €1m bonus the Nationwide chief had already promised to return.

"We have not yet had a response to my request, on the watch or on the bonus," Mr Aynsley said last night.

He added that the bank "won't be infinitely patient" but declined to specify what further actions Anglo could take to pursue Mr Fingleton.

The watch cost Nationwide much more than the €11,500 price tag, since the building society paid €9,650 to the taxman so Mr Fingleton wouldn't have to stump up for 'benefit-in-kind' taxes.

Mr Aynsley has dubbed the gift "disgraceful", while the Department of Finance has supported calls for both the watch, and the bonus, to be returned.

The timing of the lavish gift has attracted considerable consternation since it was handed over in April 2009, just weeks after the building society announced losses of more than €240m for the previous year.

Nationwide was already being propped up by a state guarantee and speculation was circulating about an impending bailout -- a rescue that would ultimately cost the taxpayer €5.4bn.

Irish Independent

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