Business

Irish Banker charged with fraud

Wednesday, July 25, 2012    

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DUBLIN, Ireland - FRAUD detectives arrested the former chief executive of Anglo Irish Bank and charged him yesterday over a conspiracy to hide colossal losses at the bank — a bill that brought the nation itself to the brink of bankruptcy.

Officers of the Bureau of Fraud Investigation arrested Sean FitzPatrick, 64, at Dublin Airport as he returned from a holiday around 5:30 am.

FitzPatrick was arraigned hours later in Dublin’s Central Criminal Court on 16 counts related to Anglo’s doomed 2008 effort to prop up its collapsing share price. Forensic accountants found that Anglo provided secret loans to 16 insiders on condition they used the €1.1 billion ($118 billion) to buy Anglo stock.

Those shares rapidly turned worthless despite the subterfuge, helping to bankrupt Ireland’s richest man and top Anglo investor, Sean Quinn. His family on its own bought €650 million in Anglo shares using the bank’s own borrowed money. The other 10 investors received loans of €45 million each.

Two other former senior Anglo executives, Willie McAteer and Patrick Whelan, were arrested in Dublin and charged with the same 16 fraud counts Monday as Ireland’s three-year probe into Anglo — described by the Justice Department as the most complex criminal case in Irish history — finally produced charges.

If convicted, all three men could face a maximum penalty of five years in prison

FitzPatrick was released on bail of €1,000, which he paid himself, and an additional surety of €10,000. His next court appearance was set for October 8.

Fraud detectives previously arrested FitzPatrick and McAteer in 2009 and 2011 as they built their case against Anglo’s top two figures, but this week marks the first time that anyone at the defunct bank has been charged.

FitzPatrick presided over Ireland’s long housing boom as head of a bank that specialised in funding the country’s biggest risk-takers in property speculation at home and abroad. Anglo’s aggressive lending inspired competitors to do the same in Ireland’s ill-regulated banks of the recent past.

But most of the Irish lenders’ cash was borrowed cheaply from British, German, American and French banks and hedge funds on the promise of future property appreciation. That risky strategy crumbled as foreign lenders pulled back from Ireland amid the global 2008 credit crunch.

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