Three former Anglo behind a €7.2 billion fraud received prison terms of between two years to three and a half years on Friday after the longest criminal trial in Irish legal history.
The September 2008 conspiracy – which, in part, led to Ireland’s colossal property values collapse and banking crisis – saw Anglo Irish Bank executives John Bowe and Willie McAteer and then chief executive of Irish Life and Permanent, Denis Casey, collude to exaggerate the true value of deposits held by Anglo were found guilty last month of agreeing a scheme to mislead the public about the true health of Anglo.
They were convicted by a jury last month and on Friday Judge Martin Nolan in Dublin sentenced Bowe to two years, McAteer to three and a half years and Casey to two years and nine months for their “reprehensible” deeds.
The judge also expressed incredulity and said it “beggared belief” that auditors Ernst and Young could have signed off on the bank’s accounts which saw revolving loans between Anglo and ILP fraudulently passed off as deposits and, thus, the bank’s nominal book value.
As a global accountancy firm it should have known the true situation at least by the end of October 2008 if it had been doing its job properly, he added.
He did not know if this failure was blindness or wilful blindness.
The three men were convicted of conspiring together and with others to mislead investors, depositors and lenders by setting up the €7.2bn circular transaction scheme between March and September 2008.
Irish Life placed the deposits via a non-banking subsidiary in the run-up to Anglo’s financial year-end, to allow its rival to categorise them as customer deposits, which are viewed as more secure, rather than a deposit from another bank.
The judge said the men did not gain any direct profit from their crimes and he had acted in what they thought was the best interests of their publicly quoted companies.
He said they had suffered badly, had lost their positions and been subjected to public odium and ridicule.
The Anglo and ILP executives conspired to show a “strong corporate number” by dishonest, deceitful and corrupt means and obvious sham transactions.
He said he believed the starting point for the sentence was eight years but had taken into account mitigating and character evidence offered to the court.
He also said the Irish authorities had deliberately turned a blind eye to “optically driven balance sheet management” as part of a so-called “green jersey agenda”.
The judge said the transactions finished on 30 September 2008 and there was a conversation between John Bowe and the office of the Financial Regulator on 1 October.
One of the three, Anglo’s former director of finance McAteer, convicted in 2014 of giving unlawful loans to ten property developers and carried out 240 hours of community service.
Because of the seriousness of the offence he had no choice but to impose prison sentences, the judge said.
The driving force in Anglo may have been David Drumm but McAteer was a leader in the bank, said the judge, and what he allowed was “grossly reprehensible”.
Bowe was, he said, in a different position, but should have known what he was doing and following orders is not a defence in law. Bowe had been close to, if not in charge of, the transactions. He said Bowe “went along with it”.
Casey had became involved because of the “green jersey agenda” to help fellow Irish institutions and by that to help his own institution but authorising Irish Life and Permanent to cooperate with the scheme was a grave error of judgment and he should have known better.
Casey had cooperated in this conspiracy even though the judge acknowledged Anglo was the author of the scheme.
As such, said the judge, he had behaved disgracefully and he sentenced him to two years and nine months in jail.
All three were led out of the courtroom towards the holding cells and thereon to Mountjoy Prison. They showed little reaction as they were sentenced.
The men have 28 days to lodge notice of an intention to appeal their convictions or sentences or both.
Following the sentencing, professional services firm EY, formerly Ernst & Young, said it was not a party to the proceedings: “EY said it fully cooperated with requests from the prosecution for witnesses and documentation in this matter. Neither the prosecution nor the defence chose to call any EY witness to give evidence at the trial in front of Judge Nolan.”