June 7, 2018 / 4:43 PM / in 4 months

Irish banker's conviction marks end of long road to justice

DUBLIN (Reuters) - An Irish judge will draw a line this month under prosecutions stemming from a banking crisis which drove Ireland to the brink of bankruptcy, sentencing the head of its biggest failed bank.

Former Anglo Irish Bank chief executive, David Drumm, leaves the Criminal Courts of Justice after being found guilty in Dublin, Ireland June 6, 2018. REUTERS/Clodagh Kilcoyne

David Drumm was found guilty on Wednesday of conspiring to defraud depositors and investors, and of false accounting in the most high profile conviction arising from a meltdown that led to the euro zone’s mostly costly state rescue in 2010.

The verdict dominated headlines on Thursday in Ireland, where taxpayers had been angered by how long it had taken to secure justice after they were forced to stump up 64 billion euros ($76 billion) to save the banks, while at the same time swallowing severe austerity measures.

“Who’s laughing now, Drummer,” Thursday’s Irish Daily Mail splashed on its front page in reference to tapes in which Drumm and other Anglo bankers had mocked regulators and the rescue.

Drumm said in the taped conversations he would demand “moolah” - slang for money - from the central bank, while another executive sang a verse of the pre-war German national anthem as they discussed money flowing in from Germany after the Irish government guaranteed the country’s banks.

The 2013 publication of the tapes sparked criticism around Europe and embarrassment for Ireland as it prepared to exit its bailout. Drumm apologized for the tone of the comments that even attracted a rebuke from German chancellor Angela Merkel.

“ABOUT TIME”

In Dublin, where Ireland’s dramatic turnaround to boast the best performing economy in Europe for the past four years is most evident, some felt the road to justice had been too long.

“It’s about time some of them went to jail alright but it almost feels like too little too late at this stage,” James Neary, a retired former manufacturing worker, said.

Drumm’s conviction followed the jailing for up to three-and-a-half years of three former Anglo and Irish Life and Permanent executives in 2016 for conspiring to defraud investors.

Their sentences concerned the same circular transaction scheme between the two lenders that Drumm was convicted over. Drumm had pleaded not guilty and has the right to appeal.

Irish police said the conviction marked the end of a nine-year investigation, one that was extended by Drumm’s extradition from the United States two years ago but still a longer process that in other countries hit by banking scandal, such as Iceland.

The trial of Anglo chairman Sean FitzPatrick on charges of misleading auditors collapsed last year after a judge ruled that the investigation fell short of the impartial, unbiased inquiry required. FitzPatrick had pleaded not guilty.

Editing by John O'Donnell and Alexander Smith

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