The Financial Regulator wanted to keep “plausible deniability” of its knowledge of a plan by Anglo Irish Bank to unwind Sean Quinn’s control of their shares, a court has heard.
Day 13 of evidence in the trial of three former Anglo executives heard that the regulator was putting “extreme pressure” on the bank to finalise an agreement to dispose of Mr Quinn’s stake but that it did not want to be mentioned in the deal.
This related to a deal proposed in March 2008 which would unwind Mr Quinn’s 29% control of the bank’s shares by having an institutional investor buy the stock. This plan fell through when such an investor could not be found.
The bank later opted for the allegedly illegal “Maple Plan” which involved lending money to 10 trusted Anglo customers so they could buy the stock.
Former Anglo chairman Sean FitzPatrick and fellow ex-directors William McAteer and Pat Whelan, are accused of providing funding for the purchase of its own shares in contravention of the 1963 Companies Act.
The three accused have been charged at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court with 16 counts of providing unlawful financial assistance to 16 individuals in July 2008 to buy shares in the bank. The 16 individuals are six members of the Quinn family and the so-called Maple Ten group of investors. Mr Whelan has also been charged with being privy to the fraudulent alteration of loan facility letters to seven individuals in October 2008.
Mr FitzPatrick, aged 65, of Greystones, Co Wicklow; Mr McAteer, aged 63, of Rathgar, Dublin; and Mr Whelan, aged 51, of Malahide, Dublin, all pleaded not guilty to all charges.
Yesterday, Anglo’s former chief financial officer, Matt Moran, told counsel for Mr FitzPatrick that the regulator was putting “extreme pressure” on Anglo to take care of the Quinn issue. Mr Moran, who was giving evidence under immunity from prosecution, said he recalled Con Horan of the regulator’s office expressing “huge disappointment” that Anglo had not completed one of the proposed plans to unwind the Quinn position.
Mr Moran agreed that, in March, an agreement was drawn up to deal with the issue. The first draft stated that the agreement had the regulator’s approval. The document was later amended after the regulator’s office asked that this line be removed.
Counsel for Mr FitzPatrick, Michael O’Higgins SC, suggested this was an attempt by the regulator to maintain “plausible deniability” about the deal.
“Is there a touch of ‘Yes Minister’ going on here?” counsel asked, referring to the British 1980s comedy programme.
“I think it’s difficult for me to comment on such a remark,” Mr Moran replied.
Counsel asked Mr Moran if he had heard of the term plausible deniability, which he defined as: “Being involved in something, controlling it, but not appearing above the waterline so, if any questions were asked later, it could be said in a plausible way you were not involved.”
“Am I right in suggesting that’s the flavour of things?” counsel said.
“That appeared to be the case,” Mr Moran replied.
Mr Moran has finished his evidence and Judge Martin Nolan has asked the jury to return on Wednesday for the trial's continuation.
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