Ex-Anglo Irish Bank chief faces new fraud charges

AP News
Posted: Dec 21, 2012 10:22 AM
Ex-Anglo Irish Bank chief faces new fraud charges

DUBLIN (AP) — The former chief executive of Ireland's collapsed Anglo Irish Bank, Sean FitzPatrick, was arraigned Friday on new fraud charges that he misled auditors and shareholders over €140 million ($180 million) in personal loans that the bank surreptitiously provided — and he never repaid.

FitzPatrick, a 64-year-old former accountant who was a leading driver of Ireland's Celtic Tiger boom, offered no plea to 12 counts of accounting fraud and was freed on bail. Prosecutors said they expect the case to proceed March 1 and, if found guilty, FitzPatrick could face fines and up to five years in prison.

State investigators have already established that FitzPatrick kept his mounting personal Anglo loans from being reported from 2002 to 2007. FitzPatrick invested the money broadly from property in Ireland, Britain and the United States to West African oil fields and a Macau casino.

Friday's charges specify that FitzPatrick deceived, or lied to, the bank's auditors twice a year as his loans were taken off and placed back on Anglo's internal books immediately before and after company accounts to shareholders were audited and published. Investigators found FitzPatrick did this by receiving short-term loans from a friendly bank, Irish Nationwide, equal to the amount he owed Anglo. Those loans were quickly repaid with fresh undisclosed borrowings.

Detective Inspector Ray Kavanagh testified Friday that the amount FitzPatrick borrowed on the sly escalated from €5.1 million in 2002 to €139.4 million in 2007. FitzPatrick declared bankruptcy in 2010 owing Anglo and other creditors approximately €150 million, but by all accounts still leads a luxurious life from his mansion south of Dublin.

Anglo and Irish Nationwide were the two biggest gamblers during Ireland's decade-long property boom, advancing ill-secured billions to property developers in the expectation that rapid price rises would continue indefinitely. But depositors and bond investors abandoned Anglo in 2008 amid the global credit crunch and a growing concern over Anglo's finances.

Ireland last year merged Anglo and Irish Nationwide into a single toxic-debt management vehicle called the Irish Bank Resolution Corp. It now estimates the two fallen banks will cost taxpayers more than €34 billion ($44 billion), a bill so colossal it wrecked Ireland's own credit rating and forced the country in 2010 to negotiate an international bailout.

FitzPatrick and other former Anglo executives could still face other fraud charges.

In July, FitzPatrick and two other former executives, Willie McAteer and Patrick Whelan, were charged with fraudulently seeking to prop up Anglo's collapsing share price in 2008 by issuing €1.1 billion ($1.45 billion) in secret loans to some of its key customers, dubbed "the golden circle" by Irish media. The only condition: They had to use the money to buy Anglo shares. Their stock became worthless when the government nationalized Anglo in 2009. Irish Nationwide was itself taken over by the state in 2010.

And fraud detectives are still gathering evidence on a key September 2008 transaction that Anglo employed when seeking to hide the true scale of its deposit losses from investors in its last pre-crisis earnings statement.

Government-empowered investigators have already found that another Dublin bank, Irish Life & Permanent, provided Anglo short-term loans totaling €7.45 billion that Anglo falsely billed as new foreign deposits; the undisclosed loans were repaid immediately after the earnings statement.