There was something surreal about lawyers in the High Court last October, 2010 acting for Paddy McKillen, casually referring to the €45m loan provided by Anglo to the developer as a participant in what has become known as the “Anglo Golden Circle” or “Anglo Maple 10” transaction whereby a group, reported to have been 10 of Anglo’s customers, were advanced some €450m in allegedly non-recourse loans to purchase shares being disposed of by tycoon, Sean Quinn. The reference to the loan in open court last October, 2010 had nothing to do with the probity/legality of the transaction, the purpose was to examine if the loans were performing or not in the context of NAMA’s rights to acquire the loans. At the time, it seemed decidedly surreal.
Surreal, because there have been several investigations into the so-called “Anglo Golden Circle” transaction over the past 28 months. Two of the investigations have been by the Gardai (Irish police service) and the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement. Just before Christmas 2010, there was an indication that files were being sent to the Director of Public Prosecutions, but four months later, there doesn’t appear to be any progress.
Of interest therefore is that a judge in Northern Irelandhas referred to the scheme in a judgment (not yet available online seemingly) reported yesterday by the BBC. The case inBelfast involves a company controlled by prominent Northern Irish developer, Peter Curistan on one side and Anglo Irish Bank on the other. There is a contention that another Northern Irish property company, PBN Property (now in NAMA incidentally) was favoured in a transaction involving Anglo and Peter Curistan. PBN Property is partly controlled by Paddy Kearney who is alleged to be one of the “Anglo Golden Circle”. The judge is reported to have called theGolden Circle transaction “a prima facie improper and unlawful proceeding”. One wonders what the process is inNorthern Ireland whereby a judge’s assessment of something as unlawful leads to a police inquiry. And on this side of the border, we continue to wonder when or even if, we will ever get legal clarity on what seems to have been a share support scheme.
UPDATE: 18th April, 2011. The quite short but fascinating judgment by Judge Deeny is now available here. With respect to the Anglo Golden Circle the judge says “it is a matter of dispute between the parties as to whether this [the decision by Anglo to abandon support for a bid by PBN for a Peter Curistan property] was because PBN was asking for too much or, as evidenced by an internal bank email of 23rd December, 2009, that the bank did not want to make a non resource [sic, probably means recourse] loan to PBN and Mr Kearney because in the interval it had been disclosed that he was one of the ten clients of the bank who had been given non recourse loans totalling €451m to allow them to buy shares in Anglo Irish Bank – a prima facie improper and unlawful proceeding.”