Sean Fitzpatrick acquitted on all charges

The Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement has accepted the criticism of its investigation

Sean Fitzpatrick acquitted on all charges

Sean FitzPatrick. Image: RollingNews.ie

The Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement (ODCE) has accepted the criticism of its investigation into Sean Fitzpatrick.

The former CEO of Anglo Irish Bank will formally be acquitted tomorrow after Judge John Aylmer ruled he intended to direct the jury to clear him of all charges arising from alleged multi-million euro loans from the bank.

It follows the longest criminal trial in the history of the state.

Mr Fitzpatrick, who stepped down as Anglo Irish Bank’s Chairman in 2008, was accused of failing to disclose multi-million euro loans to the bank’s auditors.

He denied making false, misleading or deceptive statements to Ernst & Young between 2002 and 2007 - and of furnishing false information to them.

On leaving the courtroom Mr Fitzpatrick said the trial "was a very long and tiring and difficult time for my family and myself" adding "It is a wonderful day for me and my family."

Mr Fitzpatrick was initially charged with 27 offences, but many of them were dropped during the lengthy trial.

In his ruling, Judge Aylmer said there was a real concern that Mr Fitzpatrick was being denied his constitutional right to a fair trial.

He said there were “fundamental errors” in the investigation carried out by the ODCE, and singled out the taking of witness statements from the prosecution’s key witnesses - Ernst & Young auditors Kieran Kelly and Vincent Bergin - for particular criticism.

He said the witnesses had been coached and there was evidence of cross-contamination.

He went on to describe the shredding of documents by the lead investigator Kevin O’Connell as a “worrying feature.”

"Enormous pressure"

Mr O'Connell, a solicitor with the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement (ODCE) said he was under “enormous pressure” at the time and had “made a calamitous error and shredded a small number of documents.”

The court heard the destroyed notes related to conversations with the solicitors firm representing Ernst & Young.

In response, the ODCE issued a statement to say it “fully accepts that criticism” but defended itself by saying it wasn’t equipped to undertake such an investigation at the time and is a “very different organisation” now.

In relation to Mr O’Connell’s shredding of documents, it said it happened at a time when he was under enormous stress and against a backdrop of significant mental health issues which culminated in him being hospitalised for almost two months.

This is the second time that Mr Fitzpatrick has faced these charges - after the original trial failed to reach a conclusion in 2015.

The defence applied for the charges to be thrown out at the outset of the latest proceedings, on the basis that the witness coaching and "extraordinary" document shredding were unfair to Mr Fitzpatrick.

Judge Aymer refused the application but agreed to allow the defence leave to apply again - which they did as the trial was coming to close in recent weeks.

A separate application was also made to stop the trial on the basis that there was insufficient evidence to ask a jury to make a decision. 

This afternoon judge Aylmer granted both applications. 

There was an emotional embrace between Mr Fitzpatrick and his daughter who was visibly moved when Judge Aylmer announced that he was going to direct the acquittal this morning.

The jury has not yet been told about these latest developments - and are expected to attend court tomorrow. 

Lasting 126 days, the trial was the longest running criminal trial in the history of the state.