A top banker with the financial institution that almost bankrupted Ireland boasted that he had picked the figure of €7bn (£5.9bn) they told the Irish government was needed to rescue the Anglo Irish Bank “out of his arse.”
Taped phone calls between two senior executives at Anglo Irish have compounded suspicions in the Republic that bankers lured the then Fianna Fáil led government during the crash of September 2008 into a costly financial trap by saving the debt-stricken bank with public money.
In the end the Irish taxpayer was forced to hand over €30bn to save Anglo Irish Bank from collapse and resulted in the state going cap in hand to the International Monetary Fund, the European Central Bank and the EU to save the country from national bankruptcy.
The bank’s audio recordings – obtained by The Irish Independent – are of conversations between two senior Anglo Irish managers in September 2008, John Bowe and Peter Fitzgerald. Initially the bank had asked Ireland’s central Bank for €7bn to prop up its parlous finances following the Irish property crash. Critics of the bailout have insisted Anglo Irish bank executives always knew that the figure would be far higher – ultimately more than four times higher.
On tape Fitzgerald asks Bowe how did he arrive at the figure of €7bn to which the latter replies: “Just as Drummer [the then Anglo Irish Bank CEO David Drumm now in exile and disgrace in Boston] would say, ‘picked it out my arse.'”
The conversation also tends to back up the view that Anglo Irish bankers knew that €7bn would never be enough to save the bank but once they had hoodwinked the Dublin government the taxpayer would keep picking up the tab.
In their exchange Bowe says: “Yeah, and that number is seven, but the reality is that actually we need more than that. But you know the strategy here is you pull them in, you get them to write a big cheque and they have to keep, they have to have support their money, you know.”
On the Irish government getting entrapped by Anglo, Bowe adds: “If they say, if they saw the enormity of it up front, they might decide, they might decide they have a choice. You know what I mean? They might say the cost to the taxpayer is too high. But … em … if it doesn’t look big at the outset … if it looks big, big enough to be important, but not too big that it kind of spoils everything, then then I think you have a chance.”
The two bankers are also heard laughing and joking at a time when the bank was tottering on the brink of destruction. They are heard saying they hope the bank is nationalised so “we’d keep our jobs”.
Bowe who was approached over the weekend about the 2008 conversations claimed the remarks were “off-the-cuff comments” and denied he was trying to mislead the state with underestimated figures.
Fitzgerald released a statement through his solicitor stating that “I am not nor have I ever been aware of a strategy or intention on the part of the Anglo Irish Bank to mislead authorities in relation to the forecasted funding position of Anglo Irish Bank.”
Despite the pair’s denials, the taped conversations at a critical time in the toxic bank’s history will increase the pressure for a full parliamentary inquiry into the bank rescue deal which cost the taxpayer a further €30bn after two other debt-ridden banks, the Bank of Ireland and Allied Irish Bank had to be saved from collapse.
Unlike the United States, no senior Irish banker has gone to jail or been found guilty in any court so far. The leading lights in Anglo, once regarded as masters of the financial universe who kept fuelling the Celtic Tiger, are now among the most hated figures in the Republic’s history.
Anglo Irish Bank epitomised the rise and ignominious fall of the Celtic Tiger economy. It was the preferred lender for property speculators and builders. Among its stellar business clients was Ireland’s one-time richest man Sean Quinn who borrowed hundreds of millions of euros from Anglo Irish to fund the building of a worldwide property which has since melted away. Quinn’s gambling with Anglo Irish’s loans resulted in him being made bankrupt and finally jailed for failing to hand over assets to the bank once it was nationalised.
This article originally appeared on guardian.co.uk
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