Judge rules legal advice evidence not relevant in Anglo Irish Bank trial

Wednesday 05 March 2014 22.48
Seán FitzPatrick, Patrick Whelan and William McAteer deny the charges
Seán FitzPatrick, Patrick Whelan and William McAteer deny the charges

The jury in the trial of the former chairman of Anglo Irish Bank and two former directors of the bank has been told that whether the bank obtained legal advice about the loans at the centre of the case is not relevant.

Seán FitzPatrick, Patrick Whelan and William McAteer deny giving illegal loans to 16 people to buy shares in the bank in July 2008.

Mr Whelan denies seven further charges of being involved in fraudulently altering a loan facility letter.

Judge Martin Nolan gave his ruling to the jury after several days of legal argument on the issue.

The judge told the eight women and seven men on the jury that he had made a legal ruling that the issue of whether legal advice had been obtained by Anglo Irish Bank in relation to the loans was irrelevant to the issue they had to decide.

Judge Nolan said they should not speculate about what steps were taken or any legal advice.

He said the issue was not relevant to the guilt or innocence of the three accused men on the charges before them.

The judge said this applied to any past reference in evidence to legal advice.

He said he ruled there should be no further questioning of any witnesses about this issue.

Another former chairman of the bank gave his evidence this afternoon.

Donal O'Connor took over as chairman of Anglo in December 2008 after Mr FitzPatrick stepped down.

He told the court he got a call from Mr FitzPatrick in the week beginning 7 July 2008.

Mr O'Connor said Mr FitzPatrick essentially said he had good news.

He said Mr FitzPatrick told him the stake in the bank held by businessman Seán Quinn was going to be taken up by ten people who were customers of the bank.

Mr O'Connor said the gist of it was that this would be done under normal terms and that borrowers would have to pay back 100% of the loans.

He said he asked if the Financial Regulator thought this was okay and said Mr FitzPatrick gave him various confirmations.

One of these was that Mr McAteer had checked this out thoroughly and it was all fine with the Regulator.

Mr O'Connor said he was at an informal dinner for board members in August 2008.  He said former chief executive David Drumm said the borrowers had to repay only 25% of the loans.

He said he remembered Mr FitzPatrick appeared to show surprise.