Wednesday 21 August 2019

Stiff sentence reflects role as 'driving force' of 'planned' conspiracy

David Drumm. Photo: Damien Eagers
David Drumm. Photo: Damien Eagers
Shane Phelan

Shane Phelan

The six-year prison sentence imposed on former Anglo Irish Bank chief executive David Drumm is a stiff one compared with those received by his co-conspirators.

Two years ago, former Anglo officials John Bowe and Willie McAteer were given jail terms of two years and three and a half years respectively, while former Irish Life & Permanent chief executive Denis Casey got two years and nine months.

The disparity between their sentences and the one given to Drumm may seem huge, but there are valid reasons for it.

Chief among these was the fact Drumm was the "driving force" behind transactions which made Anglo's balance sheet appear €7.2bn better than it was as the bank teetered on the brink in 2008.

The other Anglo officials jailed were subordinates, Judge Karen O'Connor observed. Drumm was more influential than they were and had a leadership role.

For many, Drumm was the poster boy for Ireland's economic crash and it may seem fitting then that his sentence is the stiffest imposed for a banking-related offence in Ireland.

However, Judge O'Connor was careful to point out the court was not sentencing him for causing the financial crisis or the recession.

She also stated the offences committed did not cause Anglo to collapse. Instead the court was sentencing Drumm for two specific offences of conspiracy to defraud and false accounting. In a measured ruling, the judge described his actions as "premeditated and planned" and "grossly reprehensible".

The court was reminded why Drumm had not been in the dock along with his co-conspirators when they were tried in 2016.

Det Sgt Michael McKenna told how Drumm decamped to the US in 2009 after quitting Anglo. Gardaí made contact with him in March 2010, but this contact ended in 2013. The DPP decided Drumm should face charges in 2014 and extradition proceedings commenced. US marshals would arrest him in October 2015, but matters were delayed as he fought extradition, spending over five months in a maximum-security prison while doing so. After two failed bids to get bail, he eventually consented to being extradited.

During one of those unsuccessful bail applications, letters from Drumm's mother Mary, wife Lorraine, friends of the couple, neighbours, business colleagues and a local church were all handed in to a court in Boston.

But yesterday there were no such testimonials or character references. Drumm's counsel Brendan Grehan SC said his client's life was "an open book" and he did not wish to expose his extended family and friends to adverse publicity and loss of privacy.

Indeed Drumm cut a solitary figure as he was sent down. Although the courtroom was packed with gardaí, media, lawyers and interested onlookers, he had attended the hearing on his own, as he had done throughout his 87-day trial.

Pleading for leniency, Mr Grehan said his client admitted that in hindsight there had been a huge error on his part. He said Drumm's intention had been to save Anglo from annihilation.

There was no evidence at the trial that anyone lost out a result of the scheme and it turned out to be futile attempt to save a bank.

The barrister said Drumm had limited future options and would have to live with notoriety for the rest of his days. However, Judge O'Connor said the fact the scheme did not succeed was irrelevant. She set eight years as the headline sentence, but reduced this to six after taking into account Drumm's previous good character, lack of previous convictions, the opprobrium he has endured, the loss of his reputation, and how this will impact on future employment opportunities.

Irish Independent

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