By MAEVE SHEEHAN
GARDAI are to recommend that the “golden circle” of 10 businessmen who were loaned money by Anglo Irish Bank to buy shares in the stricken financial institution should not face charges.
Investigators were unable to find evidence that the ‘golden circle’ committed a crime in accepting loans from Anglo Irish Bank to buy a 10 per cent stake during a critical financial period, according to an informed source.
The fraud squad will report their findings in a file to be sent to the Director of Public Prosecutions within weeks, at the end of an 18-month investigation. The criminal investigation into executives at Anglo Irish Bank who organised the “loans-for-shares” deal continues, however. The Office for the Director of Corporate Enforcement is still investigating the transaction.
The garda file on the “Anglo 10” is the first to be sent to the DPP in relation to the biggest financial investigation in the history of the State. At least 15 other criminal matters remain under investigation.
The identities of the 10 have never been formally disclosed, despite pressure from opposition parties. They include some of the country’s top developers and business people who were long-term clients of the banks. Some of the 10 were interviewed by gardai, while others engaged through legal advisors, according to the source.
The “golden circle” of investors was assembled by Anglo in 2008, after insurance tycoon Sean Quinn bought a 25 per cent indirect stake in the bank but sought to reduce it to 15 per cent. The remaining 10 per cent stake would have flooded the market, driving the share price down and further destabilising the bank.
Anglo hand-picked 10 of its long-standing clients, approaching each individually and offering them loans totalling €451m to buy up the 10 per cent share overhang. The loans were secured against the shares, with 25 per cent secured against the assets of the “golden circle”.
Anglo has since admitted it will have to write off €300m of the loans, a loss that will be carried by the taxpayer.
The identities of the 10 were referred to in internal documents as the Maple 10.
The Financial Regulator referred the transaction to the garda fraud squad last year on suspicion that Anglo had mis-represented the transaction to the regulator because it did not disclose to the regulator that it was financing the share deal.
In relation to the Maple 10 transaction, their inquiries have focused on whether the bank concealed the fact that it financed the loans to the Maple 10 to buy the stake.
While the 10 individuals are expected to escape charges, the investigation into the role of Anglo executives in structuring the transaction is still under investigation.
Ulick McEvaddy, a well-known business figure, famously described the “Anglo 10” as “heroes” who were prepared to put themselves at risk to support the bank. Taoiseach Brian Cowen has refused requests to name the 10 on the advice of the Attorney General.
Investigations are continuing into potential market abuse and market manipulation in a series of share deals and loan transactions that propped up the troubled bank in the months before its collapse. The offence carries a 10-year prison sentence and up to €10m in fines.
The principal criminal investigation surrounds the transfer of €7bn from Irish Life and Permanent to Anglo to bolster its accounts as the bank came to the end of its financial year.
Sean FitzPatrick, the bank’s former chairman, has been arrested and questioned about the transaction. Mr FitzPatrick is also being investigated over €87m in personal loans over eight years which did not appear in annual reports. Another Anglo executive, Wille McAteer, was also arrested. Its former chief executive, David Drumm, has arranged to be interviewed by gardai.