Sean FitzPatrick finally in the dock over collapse of Anglo Irish

AT THE height of the Celtic Tiger boom, Sean FitzPatrick was earning €2.7 million a year as head of Anglo Irish Bank.

AT THE height of the Celtic Tiger boom, Sean FitzPatrick was earning €2.7 million a year as head of Anglo Irish Bank.

Yesterday, the disgraced businessman stood before a Dublin court charged with financial irregularities relating to his role in the biggest banking collapse in the history of the Irish state.

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The 64-year-old, who served as chief executive and chairman of Anglo Irish, is accused of making loans to a group of ten wealthy clients, including prominent property developers, to buy shares in the bank.

It is the third time FitzPatrick has been arrested as part of the three-and-a-half-year investigation into the collapse of Anglo Irish Bank, but this was his first appearance in court. His arrest came the day after Irish prosecutors charged two former Anglo Irish senior executives in connection with a long-running investigation into fraud at what was once Ireland’s third largest financial institution.

FitzPatrick faced 16 charges in relation to the alleged attempts to inflate Anglo’s share price. He was granted bail and is to appear in court again on 8 October.

FitzPatrick, wearing his trademark navy suit and pink tie, sat with his arms folded and did not respond when each of the charges was read out.

Anglo Irish Bank was one of the biggest players in Ireland’s ill-fated boom, providing tens of billions of euros in loans to property developers.

The collapse in Ireland’s property market left Anglo with a loan book filled with toxic assets. In 2009, it was nationalised at a cost of about €30 billion to Irish taxpayers. It is now known as the Irish Bank Resolution Corporation Limited.

On Monday, Willie McAteer, former finance director of Anglo Irish, was arrested and charged with 16 counts of giving unlawful financial assistance to buy shares in the bank in 2008. Pat Whelan, a one-time director of the bank, was charged with the same offences. Both face up to five years in prison and/or a fine of more than €3,000 if they are found guilty.

McAteer and Whelan also face charges over loans made to six members of the family of Sean Quinn, allegedly also to buy shares in the bank as the share price collapsed in the wake of the economic crash.

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Mr Quinn, who was once the richest man in Ireland according to Forbes magazine, was declared bankrupt earlier this year, with debts of around €2bn to Anglo Irish. He used loans from Anglo to buy shares in the company as its price plunged. The punt backfired spectacularly: by October 2008, shares bought at €6.28 were trading for €1.63. Mr Quinn’s shares in the bank were ultimately rendered worthless when Anglo was nationalised.

Mr Quinn’s son is currently being held in an Irish jail, while a bench warrant has been issued for the arrest of his nephew, Peter Darragh Quinn. All three were found guilty of contempt of court last week, for failing to provide up to €500m from properties allegedly hid in a complex web of investments around the world.

Anglo Irish Bank, and Sean FitzPatrick, were leading players in the Irish property bubble, the bursting of which forced Dublin to accept a €67.5bn bail-out from the European Union and the International Monetary Fund in November 2010.

Public anger in Ireland’s towards bankers, and FitzPatrick in particular, is high. But as yet, no bankers have yet been convicted for their role in Ireland’s economic collapse.