Trial of executives of bankrupt Anglo Irish Bank set to start
The trial of senior executives of the bank that almost bankrupted Ireland begins today with tight security around the Dublin courthouse where the men being blamed for the Irish banking crisis are to be tried.
It will be one of the most complex and controversial trials in the history of European financial crime, with hundreds of witnesses, millions of documents and a trio regarded as national hate figures in Ireland.
Three figures of the now-defunct and disgraced Anglo Irish Bank - Sean FitzPatrick, Pat Whelan and William McAteer - will each face 16 charges of unlawfully providing financial assistance to individuals for the purpose of buying shares in Anglo Irish Bank in 2008.
All of the charges relate to a specific person who allegedly received financial assistance in July 2008. The trio deny all charges against them.
Among the witnesses expected to give evidence is Ireland's one-time richest man, Sean Quinn, who borrowed from the bank to fund the purchase of real estate around the world as the Irish economy boomed. When property prices collapsed around the world, Quinn had to file for bankruptcy.
A jury of eight men and seven women has been sworn in at the Dublin circuit criminal court. It is the first time in Irish criminal history that an extended jury of 15 has been selected to hear a major case. The trial is expected to last for three to six months.
Judge Martin Nolan told the assembled panel that any past or present Anglo Irish Bank employees should not serve on the jury and said anyone who had expressed "strong public views" on Anglo Irish, including on Facebook and other social media networks, or who owned shares in any bank was prohibited from serving.
Forty-two police officers are expected to give evidence along with former employees of Anglo Irish Bank and staff from Ireland's central bank. Up to 24 million documents and 800 witness statements will be examined during the trial.
There is expected to be a security present around the courthouse in case of demonstrations against the bankers on trial.
About €30 billion (HK$315 billion) of taxpayers' money had to be pumped into the bank in 2008 to rescue it and the entire Irish banking system from collapse. The bank has since been nationalised and renamed as the Irish Banking Resolution Corporation.