Fingleton got €11k watch as a parting gift

Cormac Murphy

MICHAEL Fingleton is under renewed pressure after it emerged he accepted an €11,500 watch from Irish Nationwide as a retirement gift.

The former building society chief received the watch from the institution even though it was protected by the State guarantee at the time.

Anglo Irish Bank -- as the new owner of Irish Nationwide -- has now demanded the return of the gift, which cost it a total of €21,150 when taxes are taken into account.

Fingleton received the watch in April 2009 shortly after promising to return a €1m bonus he had been paid by Irish Nationwide.

Anglo has hand-delivered a letter, written by the bank's chief Mike Aynsley, to Mr Fingleton's home in Shankhill, Co Dublin, demanding the return of the watch and renewing the demand to repay the bonus.

Mr Aynsley said it was "disgraceful" that Fingleton would accept a retirement gift at a time when Irish Nationwide was guaranteed by taxpayers.

The watch was bought at Paul Sheeran's jewellers in Dublin in April 2009.

The society also paid €9,650 to the Revenue Commissioners so Fingleton would not have to pay benefit-in-kind tax.

Questions are now being asked of former board members at Irish Nationwide about whether they knew of the gift.

In March 2009, Fingleton bowed to pressure and promised to return the €1m bonus he had received after the Government guarantee was introduced in September 2008.

A statement at the time reiterated that he was legally entitled to the bonanza. The cash has yet to be returned.

The watch was given just weeks after the bank announced losses of €243m for 2008.

Irish Nationwide was taken into State ownership last year and has received €5.4bn from taxpayers to cover losses.

Some €400,000 of Mr Fingleton's €1m bonus was withheld for tax when it was paid in November 2008, it has emerged.

Anglo is now seeking repayment of the remainder.

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