By Conor Gallagher
Former Anglo Irish Bank Chairman Sean FitzPatrick told gardaí that he was aware the bank would be lending money to Maple Ten group of investors before the allegedly illegal transaction went through.
The trial of three former Anglo executives heard that Mr FitzPatrick said during garda interview that he didn’t have a problem with the deal and that he had been assured by Anglo CEO, David Drumm, that the deal was “kosher” and “above board”.
Mr FitzPatrick also denied to gardaí that he was using his role as non-executive director “to detach himself” from the Maple Ten deal.
The deal, which went through on July 14, 2008, involved the Maple ten buying a total of 9.4 per cent of Anglo shares. This was intended to unwind businessman Sean Quinn’s 29.4 per cent control of Anglo.
Mr FitzPatrick said that he assumed Mr Drumm informed the Financial Regulator about the deal, as the Regulator had been kept up to date on all developments until that point.
Mr FitzPatrick said to investigators: “Well just think about it; Was he (Mr Drumm) going to go out and do something illegal? In what was going to be one of the most publically looked at deals in Ireland? Why would he do that?”
Mr FitzPatrick went on to say it that would “be pretty strong” stuff to suggest that Mr Drumm didn’t inform the regulator about the deal.
The interviewing gardaí said: “Butyou find yourself here today…obviously the regulator made a complaint.”
Mr FitzPatrick replied: “That will come out in the wash one day because they (Financial Regulator) will be there. I can’t say to you the regulator knew definitely because I wasn’t there.”
Mr FitzPatrick is accused, along with former executives William McAteer and Pat Whelan, of providing funding for the purchase of its own shares in contravention of the 1963 Companies Act.
They have been 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 16 individuals are six members of the Quinn family and the Maple Ten group of investors.
Mr Whelan has also been charged with being privy to the fraudulent alteration of loan facility letters to seven individuals in October 2008.
Mr FitzPatrick (65) of Greystones, Co Wicklow, Mr McAteer (63) of Rathgar, Dublin and Mr Whelan (51) of Malahide, Dublin have pleaded not guilty to all charges.
Sergeant Catharina Gunne of the Garda Fraud Squad told prosecuting counsel Úna Ni Raifeartaigh SC that Mr FitzPatrick told them he was in the South of France when Mr Drumm called him on July 9, 2008 and said they had a solution to the Quinn problem.
He said the CEO told him they were going to get ten customers and give them money to buy the shares. He said Mr Drumm refused to tell him the identities of the ten as he was “keeping it very very tight.”
Mr FitzPatrick said he only discovered the Maple Ten’s identities later through rumours and newspaper reports.
During the interviews Mr FitzPatrick repeatedly told gardaí that he had no executive function in the bank since he retired as CEO in 2004 to become the non-executive chairman.
“I was 56; I’d worked hard,” he told investigators. “I wanted to pass the baton to someone else. I’d done my time.”
He said that when Mr Drumm replaced him as CEO, he took care not to get involved in executive decisions or to be seen as stepping on Mr Drumm’s toes.
“David wanted to show he was very independent of me,” he said. “He needed to make sure all his executives knew that he was the man in charge, so there was very little between us.”
Mr FitzPatrick said he didn’t have a warm relationship with Mr Drumm, commenting “I was never in his house, he was never in my house, we never socialised together.”
He said he hadn’t spoken to his former colleague since December 2008 when he sent him a text message around Christmas Day.
When asked about his opinion of Mr Drumm, the accused said that “later on” he felt he was getting too defensive and was not being open enough. He described a presentation during which Mr Drumm made a mistake but refused to admit it when confronted by the chairman.
The interviewing gardaí put it to Mr FitzPatrick that they found very hard to believe that Mr FitzPatrick took a back seat after “building the company from nothing to when it was worth hundreds of millions.”
Sgt Gunne said to the accused: You’re a very driven man, you’re a very intelligent man, you’re a qualified chartered accountant, you put a lot into the company. I can’t believe you would not keep your finger on the pulse.”
“What’s the proof of that,” Mr FitzPatrick responded. “I’ve just answered all questions as straight as I can.”
He accepted that he probably continued to be seen as “the face of Anglo” after he stepped down as CEO but that the executives at the bank would support his view that he played no part in the day to day running.
“There was never any greyness,” he said. “I would never have had any role in relation to the executive.”
The trial continues tomorrow (Friday) with Mr FitzPatrick’s garda interviews before Judge Martin Nolan and a jury.