Trio face Anglo Irish share charges

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Willie McAteer, the former Finance Director of Anglo Irish Bank, arrives at the Circuit Criminal Court in Dublin where he faces charges of trying to inflate the share price of the now-defunct lender Anglo Irish Bank. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Wednesday February 5, 2014. Sean FitzPatrick, the former chairman and one-time chief executive, former finance director Willie McAteer and former chief financial officer Pat Whelan face a total of 16 charges. The three men are due before court 19 of the Criminal Courts of Justice in Dublin for a trial that is expected to last four months - one of the longest-running criminal trials in Irish history. Vast amounts of technical and financial evidence will be put before a jury of 12 people with case management hearings having been told there are 24 million documents and 800 witness statements. See PA story IRISH Anglo. Photo credit should read: Niall Carson/PA Wire

One of the biggest trials in Irish legal history begins today when three former bankers face charges of trying to inflate the share price of the now-defunct lender Anglo Irish Bank.

Sean FitzPatrick, the former chairman and one-time chief executive, former finance director Willie McAteer and former chief financial officer Pat Whelan face a total of 16 charges.

The three men are due before court 19 of the Criminal Courts of Justice in Dublin for a trial that is expected to last four months - one of the longest-running criminal trials in Irish history.

Vast amounts of technical and financial evidence will be put before a jury of 12 people with case management hearings having been told there are 24 million documents and 800 witness statements.

An IT system will be used to electronically display documents during the trial while jurors will also be given laptops to view material.

The prosecution will open its case in front of Judge Martin Nolan at the Circuit Criminal Court this morning.

Due to the expected level of public interest, a special viewing room is being opened in the Phoenix Park courts complex to allow people to watch the trial via video link.

FitzPatrick, 64, of Whitshed Road, Greystones, Co Wicklow; McAteer, 62, of Auburn Villas, Rathgar, south Dublin; and Whelan, 50, of Coast Road, Malahide, Co Dublin, have been charged with 16 counts of providing unlawful financial assistance to individuals in July 2008 to buy shares in the bank.

All three entered not guilty pleas last Friday.

The maximum sentence for each offence is five years in jail, with the lower end of the sentencing scale a fine of 3,100 euro (£2,500).

The charges are linked to alleged loans of 451 million euro (£350 million) to the family of bankrupt former billionaire Sean Quinn, including his wife Patricia and son Sean junior, and a golden circle of 10 clients hand-picked to invest in stock to prop up the share price.

A special dispensation was granted during preparations for the trial to allow for 15 jurors to be selected in order for three jurors to be on standby in case one of the other 12 is unable to continue.

FitzPatrick was declared bankrupt in 2012.

Anglo Irish Bank's share price collapsed in 2008 and a secret stock market gamble by Mr Quinn unravelled.
The one-time tycoon had quietly built up a 25% stake in the bank using contracts for difference - a trade
deal to shield the true identity of the buyer. The deals allow investors to gamble in the hope a share price rises and reap huge gains. If the value goes south, however, the investor is liable for massive losses.

Anglo's share price reached an all-time high of 17.53 euro (£14.41) in 2007, but later that year the credit crunch began to bite and rumours spread in financial circles that Anglo was in trouble.

The bank was ultimately nationalised in January 2009. The Irish government stepped in following commitments made the previous September under the bank guarantee scheme and the bailout cost 29 billion euro (£24 billion).

Anglo was subsequently rebranded the Irish Bank Resolution Corporation and then liquidated last year.

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