Sean FitzPatrick trial told search warrants were unlawful

Warrants obtained by gardaí to search banking premises for evidence during investigations into events at Anglo Irish Bank in 2008 were unlawful and unconstitutional, a jury has heard.

Sean FitzPatrick trial told search warrants were unlawful

Lawyers for the bank’s former chairman Sean FitzPatrick, aged 68, told the jury at his trial that despite the searches being unlawful, they would still see the relevant evidence that was seized.

Mr FitzPatrick, of Whitshed Rd, Greystones, Co Wicklow, is on trial at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court accused of misleading auditors about multimillion-euro loans between 2002 and 2007.

He has pleaded not guilty to 27 offences under the 1990 Companies Act. These include 22 charges of making a misleading, false, or deceptive statement to auditors and five charges of furnishing false information in the years 2002 to 2007.

On day 58, the trial has begun in evidence before a jury sworn in last September. Since then there have been around three months of legal argument.

Det Sgt Brian Mahon testified that he had been seconded from the Garda Bureau of Fraud Investigation to the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement from 2007.

He gave evidence of obtaining warrants at the district court to enter the offices of Anglo Irish Bank in 2009 and the offices of Irish Nationwide Building Society in 2010.

He said he required warrants from the district court under section 20 of the Companies Act in order to enter the premises lawfully. He said on foot of these warrants, gardaí carried out searches of the offices and seized documents and computer hard drives.

Under cross-examination, he agreed with Bernard Condon, defending, that the searches had been subsequently ruled by Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to be unlawful.

He agreed that the court had found the warrants to be both unlawful and unconstitutional. He also agreed that despite this there was no consequence in terms of the jury receiving all the relevant documents seized in the searches.

Before the evidence began, Judge John Aylmer told the jury that the previous estimate they were given for the trial finishing by the end of February was no longer accurate.

He said the case was now anticipated to finish by mid-March with a possibility that it could go to the end of March.

He warned the jury not to seek out information about the case anywhere outside the court, including seeking out information on the internet or on social media.

“If you are exposed to it, ignore it. But actively seek to avoid coming across that type of material,” said Judge Aylmer.

In November, Dominic McGinn, prosecuting, gave the jury an overview of the State’s case against Mr FitzPatrick.

He told them that loans taken out by the accused, his wife, and family members increased from in the region of €10m in 2002 to around €100m in 2007.

The loans were used to finance development of shopping centres, hotels, and offices at a time when a lot of money could be made in property development, said Mr McGinn.

He said the amount of these loans was “artificially reduced” for a period of two weeks around the bank’s end-of-year financial statement by short-term loans from other sources, including Irish Nationwide.

He said this trial was about the alleged failure by the former director to disclose the extent of his loans to the bank’s auditors, Ernst & Young.

The trial continues.

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