A bankrupt ex-billionaire whose fortune was wiped out by the near-collapse of Anglo Irish Bank has told a Dublin court that executives at the institution assured him the bank was in "rude health" just before it was bailed out by taxpayers.
The one-time wealthiest man in the Irish Republic, Sean Quinn, said the bank's bosses asked him to halt legal action against them in September 2008 and instead they should "come to a gentlemen's agreement where we will all live happily ever after". Quinn added that he had been a fool for getting involved in buying shares in the bank.
The businessman was giving evidence on Monday at the trial of three Anglo Irish executives – Sean FitzPatrick, Pat Whelan and William McAteer. The trio have pleaded not guilty to charges that they unlawfully provided finance to 16 individuals including Quinn. Their trial is set to be the longest in Irish legal history and one of the biggest financial crime cases in Europe.
In his testimony inside Dublin's central criminal court, Quinn told the jury that Anglo Irish executives arranged for a meeting with him in September 2008 in order to persuade him to halt legal action against the bank. Quinn had already been forced to sell a proportion of his shares in Anglo Irish during the summer – a situation the tycoon said he was "not very happy about".
Although he was assured at that meeting that the bank was still in "rude health", Anglo Irish was bailed out with billions of euros from the Irish taxpayer and nationalised by the state to prevent its complete collapse shortly afterwards.
Quinn, who told the court that he had employed more than 6,000 people, said he once regarded Anglo Irish Bank as a "marvellous institution" and even when its share price fell by 40% in September 2007 he still sought to buy more shares in it.
He then described how relations between himself and bank bosses deteriorated. He said they had refused to let him hold a full meeting with the bank's board at the end of March 2008 when the share price was collapsing and to discuss his financial situation.
The lawyer for Pat Whelan, Brendan Grehan, suggested in court that Quinn had been trying back in 2007 to intimidate the bank into loaning him millions more by referring to a hole in his businesses' accounts.
Referring to a meeting with the former CEO of the bank, David Drumm, Grehan said: "You were scaring him into giving you more money."
Quinn denied the charge and countered by saying that Drumm and Anglo Irish agreed to loan him €500m to buy more shares in the bank. He had originally asked for €400m, Quinn told the court.
Rejecting suggestions he had Anglo Irish "over a barrel", Quinn said: "He [David Drumm] had him over a huge barrel. It was taking €400m to sort out the problem and fill the hole."
Quinn said of his shares in Anglo Irish: "After throwing billions of pounds to support and then going and giving them away, it just didn't make any sense. I was furious and I'm still furious. Anglo had lent all of this money for the purchase of these positions. We lost €3.2bn through the Anglo fiasco. I was a fool."
Grehan then said to Quinn: "I am not here to see you beat yourself up." Quinn replied: "I've got a right beating these last few years."
The case continues.
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