Three former banking executives have been jailed for conspiring in a “deceitful and corrupt” €7 billion market deception scheme.
Judge Martin Nolan said that former former Anglo Irish Bank executives John Bowe (52) and Willie McAteer (65), and the former Group Chief Executive of Irish Life and Permanent plc. (ILP), Denis Casey (56) took part in a scheme that was “deceitful, dishonest and corrupt”.
He said they had failed to act with honesty and integrity by manufacturing €7.2bn in deposits in what were obviously “sham transactions”. The deals were done in September 2008 in order to make Anglo's books look healthier that they actually were.
Judge Nolan said that it was a serious matter than two blue chip companies conspired together to manipulate public accounts. He said that individual depositors and investors relied on and made decisions based on the public accounts of companies.
He said that if the public cannot rely on probity of blue chip companies and banks we lose all trust in them. He said that money was important to people, especially to older people who have nest eggs invested in banks.
“They are entitled to rely on honesty and integrity. In this case honesty and integrity were sorely lacking,” Judge Nolan said.
He said this conspiracy potentially affected thousands of people and that the starting point for his sentence was eight years.
The judge said that certain State authorities turned a blind eye to “optically driven balance sheet management” which he said was a euphemism for banks entering into transactions which have little or no effect.
The evidence during the trial was that Bowe believed the attitude of Financial Regulator was one of “I'm not looking” and that Casey became involved with the transactions after being told by the Regulator that Irish banks needed to “don the green jersey” and help each other out during the unprecedented global credit crunch.
Judge Nolan said that Anglo's former CEO, David Drumm, was the driving force behind the scheme. He also said that it beggared belief that Anglo's auditors Ernst&Young (now EY) had signed off on Anglo's end of year accounts.
“They should have known what was occurring if they were doing their job properly,” he said, and commented as to whether it was a case of “blindness or wilful blindness”.
Bowe from Glasnevin, Dublin, McAteer of Greenrath, Tipperary Town, Co. Tipperary and Casey from Raheny, Dublin had all pleaded not guilty to conspiring together and with others to defraud by setting up a €7.2 billion circular transaction scheme between March 1st and September 30th, 2008 to bolster Anglo's balance sheet with the intention of misleading investors.
On day 89 of the longest running criminal trial in the State's history a jury convicted Casey. They had already returned guilty verdicts on Bowe and McAteer a week earlier. The jury deliberated for a total of 65 hours.
Jailing McAteer for three and a half years Judge Nolan said he had authorised the transactions when he knew what he was doing was underhand, deceitful and corrupt. He said he was a respected leader of huge experience whose actions in 2008 were reprehensible.
He told Bowe that his was the chief man in Anglo's Treasury room and he had failed to act with honesty. He told him that in law following orders was no defence.
He imposed a two year sentence on Bowe, telling him the lower sentence was because he was “a lesser functionary” and not a board member.
He told Casey that he had made a grave error of judgement in authorising the transaction with Anglo. He said he was a man who should have known better. He jailed him for two years and nine months after telling him that Anglo were the authors of the scheme but that he had behaved disgracefully and reprehensibly in co-operating with it.
Casey told gardaí that he only agreed to the short term loans with Anglo on condition that there was no risk to his company and that he did not know or intend that Anglo would misrepresent the loans as customer deposits.
McAteer is the only one of the three to have a previous conviction. He was convicted in 2014 of providing unlawful loans from Anglo Irish Bank to ten property developers, dubbed the “Maple Ten”, in July 2008 in breach of Section 60 of the Companies Act.
He carried out 240 hours of community service in lieu of a two year prison sentence.
The court also heard that McAteer had a large shareholding in Anglo that was once very valuable and had lost "tens of millions" of euro when the shares collapsed in value.
Judge Nolan said that none of the men had gained from the scheme and that there was no loss to the State or the banks as the inter-bank loans cancelled each other out.