UPDATE 2-Ex-Anglo Irish chairman found not guilty on lending charges

Wed Apr 16, 2014 2:34pm EDT

Related Topics

* FitzPatrick cleared of all charges by majority verdict

* Deliberations continue on charges against other bankers

* First such trial since Ireland's financial crisis (Adds details of share transaction, background on Anglo)

By Sarah O'Connor

DUBLIN, April 16 (Reuters) - A Dublin court found the former chairman of the collapsed Anglo Irish Bank Sean FitzPatrick not guilty on Wednesday of charges of illegal lending and providing unlawful assistance to investors.

The trial had been seen as a landmark in Ireland, where Anglo Irish became synonymous with the reckless lending practices that drove the "Celtic Tiger" boom and subsequent bust which pushed the state to the brink of collapse in 2010.

FitzPatrick went on trial in January along with two other former executives of the bank in the first such case since a banking crisis cost taxpayers more than 60 billion euros ($83 billion) or about two-fifths of national output.

"I would like to thank my wife, my two sons and my daughter and my sister who have supported me, not only during this trial, but for the past six years of great personal difficulty," a smiling FitzPatrick told reporters outside the court.

"I would like also to especially thank the women and men of the jury who found me not guilty of all charges," said FitzPatrick, who was chairman of the bank from 2005 to 2008.

The jury will continue deliberations on Thursday on charges against former bank officials Pat Whelan and Willie McAteer who were also accused of providing loans to investors and to the wife and five children of bankrupt businessman Sean Quinn in 2008 to enable them to buy shares in the bank, boosting its stock price.

The two men have pleaded not guilty.

Last week, FitzPatrick was found not guilty of charges of having provided loans to the Quinn family. The jury acquitted him on the remaining charges by majority verdict after just over three days of deliberations.

A composed FitzPatrick, wearing his trademark navy suit and pink tie, shook hands with his two co-accused after the verdict was read out.

In February, prosecutors said that Anglo, which was put into accelerated liquidation last year and whose failure cost some 30 billion euros, decided to do something "absolutely illegal" by lending money to the individuals.

FitzPatrick, who was chief executive of the bank from 1986 to 2005, said his successor as CEO David Drumm told him the plan to lend the money was "kosher and above board", according to interview notes which police read out during the trial.

DERIVATIVES

Former finance director McAteer and former head of lending for Ireland Whelan remain accused of providing loans of about 625 million euros to bank clients to enable them to buy shares in Anglo, unwinding a derivatives position in the bank held by Quinn, once Ireland's richest man.

The loans were used by the customers, including Quinn's wife and five adult children, to buy shares in the bank. The Quinns were unwinding a stake of as much as 29 percent in Anglo Irish built up via contracts for difference (CFDs) - which do not have to be publicly declared.

The bank's management feared a disorderly unwinding of the CFD position would put the bank in jeopardy.

Quinn's family then bought a 15 percent stake and the 10 other clients, known as the "Maple Ten", took a 10 percent stake.

The stock became worthless once the government took over the bank in 2009, leaving the Quinn family with debts to the bank of almost 3 billion euros, decimating their business empire, which had stretched from insurance to cement.

Oliver Wyman, the consultancy working with the European Central Bank on this year's health check of lenders, had crowned Anglo Irish the world's best-performing bank in 2006 but its fall from grace was rapid and spectacular.

It concentrated its business on Irish property developers, many of whom gave personal guarantees as security on huge loans. Many clients went bust and in 2010 the bank recorded a loss of 17.7 billion euros, the biggest in Irish corporate history.

($1 = 0.7243 Euros) (Writing by Padraic Halpin and Sam Cage; editing by Alison Williams and Keiron Henderson)

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