herald

Sunday 25 August 2019

FitzPatrick's wife forks out €430k to buy his share of family home

Former Anglo chief Sean FitzPatrick
Former Anglo chief Sean FitzPatrick

The wife of former Anglo Irish Bank chairman Sean FitzPatrick has spent €430,000 buying her husband's share in their family home from his bankruptcy trustee.

Catriona FitzPatrick and her husband were previously joint owners of the substantial home in Co Wicklow.

However, after Mr FitzPatrick was declared bankrupt in 2010 with debts of €147m, his interest in the property vested with the Official Assignee in Bankruptcy, Christopher Lehane.

Although Mr FitzPatrick was discharged from bankruptcy in 2014, assets which had not already been sold to pay off creditors remained under the control of Mr Lehane.

Publicly available documents now indicate Mrs FitzPatrick spent €430,000 buying her husband's share in the property from Mr Lehane in May.

An application to register the deed of conveyance was filed with the Property Registration Authority last month.

The transaction means the couple has managed to hold on to their family home at Whitshed Road in Greystones despite the significant financial woes suffered by Mr FitzPatrick in the aftermath of Anglo's collapse.

Mr FitzPatrick did not return a call seeking comment.

Bankrupt

The deal was in line with the policies of the Insolvency Service of Ireland regarding family homes.

These state that where the home is in positive equity, the official assignee has a duty to creditors to realise this equity.

The policy of the official assignee is to sell his interest in the home to the former bankrupt, once the purchase funds are proven not to be the former bankrupt's. Alternatively, he can sell his interest to the former bankrupt's spouse, which is what has occurred in this case.

Mr Lehane has been disposing of around €49m worth of assets Mr FitzPatrick had at the time of his bankruptcy, including bank accounts, investment funds and properties.

However, the official assignee was unable to touch Mrs FitzPatrick's share of bank accounts she held jointly with her husband. Documents filed in court indicated her share in a number of bank accounts in June 2010 amounted to more than €1.1m.

Her husband ran Anglo for a quarter of a century before becoming chairman in 2005.

But he resigned amid a directors' loans controversy in December 2008, shortly before the bank collapsed. Mr FitzPatrick admitted temporarily moving directors' loans of up to €87m out of the bank at the end of the financial year.

He insisted he had not breached banking or legal regulations, but admitted it was "inappropriate and unacceptable from a transparency point of view".

He was later charged with misleading the bank's auditors about the loans, but was acquitted in 2017 after a judge directed a jury to find him not guilty.

The judge criticised the probe conducted by the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement, saying it fell short of an unbiased, impartial, balanced investigation.

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