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Wednesday 26 July 2017

Shamed Seanie all smiles as Anglo case falls apart

Sean FitzPatrick is all smiles as he leaves court with his daughter Sarah after hearing of his acquittal
Sean FitzPatrick is all smiles as he leaves court with his daughter Sarah after hearing of his acquittal

Former Anglo Irish Bank chairman Sean FitzPatrick described yesterday's news that he is to be acquitted on all charges as "a wonderful day for me and my family".

Mr FitzPatrick was speaking outside the Criminal Courts of Justice in Dublin after a judge said that he intends to direct the jury today to drop the allegations.

Judge John Aylmer said the investigation into the alleged refinancing of loans worth €122m at the bank's year-end dates between 2002 and 2007 was flawed by witness coaching and contamination of witness statements.

After the ruling the former bank executive (68) said: "I want to say it was a very long and tiring and difficult time for my family, myself but thankfully today the trial is over.

"As you can appreciate it's a wonderful day for me and my family." He then asked for privacy for his family.

Misleading

Mr FitzPatrick was the chairman of Anglo for almost 30 years. He resigned in 2008 at the height of the financial crisis after it emerged he had loans of €87m from the bank, which had not been disclosed in its annual report.

The cost of bailing out Anglo was €30bn which works out at €6,250 for every person living in Ireland.

The trial at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court was a retrial after the first one in May 2015 ended following weeks of legal argument over the flaws in the ODCE investigation.

Mr FitzPatrick was charged in December 2012 of knowingly or recklessly making false, misleading or deceptive statements to Anglo's auditors from 2002 to 2007.

Mr FitzPatrick looked initially taken aback when Judge Aylmer made it clear at the start of a lengthy ruling, that he intended to direct an acquittal.

He said he was making his ruling because of real concerns that the defendant was being denied his constitutional right to a fair trial.

Mr FitzPatrick smiled as the decision sunk in and his daughter Sarah broke into tears.

After Judge Aylmer finished his ruling, Ms FitzPatrick stepped into the dock and cried as she and her father embraced.

Judge Aylmer's decision came after lengthy submissions from the defence arguing that the case should not go before the jury because of flaws in the investigation process and in the prosecution case.

Lawyers for the Director of Public Prosecutions said the trial should continue and should be decided by the jury.

Judge Aylmer said that after considering the arguments from both sides he had decided that in the interests of Mr FitzPatrick's constitutional right to a fair trial he would direct the jury to find him not guilty.

He said that the probe, carried out by the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement (ODCE), fell short of an unbiased, impartial, balanced investigation that an accused is entitled to.

He said the investigation failed to seek out evidence as to the innocence as well as the guilt of the accused.

The judge added that the most fundamental error was the manner in which the ODCE set about taking statements from witnesses.

Contamination

He said this involved coaching of witnesses, contamination of their statements from third parties such as solicitors for the auditors and cross-contamination of their statements between other witnesses.

The prosecution had alleged that Mr FitzPatrick, of Whitshed Road, Greystones, Co Wicklow had failed to disclose to the bank's auditor Ernst & Young the details of director's loans he received from Anglo between November 2002 and February 2008.

He pleaded not guilty to 27 offences under the 1990 Companies Act.

The prosecution followed a probe by the ODCE that began shortly after the full size of Mr FitzPatrick's personal loans emerged in December 2008.

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