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Monday 6 February 2023 Dublin: 0°C
Brian O'Leary/Photocall Ireland The letters have long since been removed from Anglo Irish Bank HQ - but how much longer will it take to make its former executives tell all?
VOICES
Column Anglo-Irish execs should be made to co-operate
As we approach the third anniversary of those infamous meetings to prop up Anglo-Irish Bank, former trader Nick Leeson asks why the investigation is proving “spectacularly lethargic”.

NEWS HAS FILTERED through again this week that many of the people that the Anglo Irish investigators are looking to interview are still refusing to cooperate.

It’s preposterous that it is taking as much time as it is.

We are now told that some of the transactions are inter-related and that many of the transactions are more complex than first thought. That reminds me of an old football chant used when your own team are not performing that well: ‘What a load of rubbish’.

That’s true on two counts. Firstly on the basis that they have been unable to get these important witnesses to give evidence but also on the basis that no charges have been brought. I’m certainly no expert on the Irish legal system and have no desire to be but false accounting is a crime everywhere in the world. I can’t think of anywhere that it would be described as legal and there will be any amount of episodes to bring to account. I faced one specimen charge in court but there were many thousands that could have been added.

Targest the weakest link… and the dominos will start to fall

What I really don’t understand though is the spectacularly lethargic approach to actually doing something. Divide and conquer has been an investigation technique used since the beginning of time. Whether you are trying to infiltrate a complex terrorist organisation or quiz a couple of high-flying bank executives, the principal is the same. Target the weakest link, offer a way out of the situation or a plea bargain in exchange for evidence and the dominos will start to fall.

I, for one cannot understand why this case is no further down the line. We approach the third anniversary of the infamous meetings to prop up Anglo Irish Bank but still nothing is done. I was tried, convicted, sentenced and released in a four and a half year period. That is justice being done, lessons being learned and moving on. I doubt that anyone has any confidence that anything will be set in train in this case by that same landmark.

The investigators need to do more than fend us off with tired excuses

I think the general public have the right to know why, rather than being offered a ‘load of rubbish’ that witnesses are failing to cooperate. When an episode is of significant national interest it is important that action is taken. Take the hacking scandal in the UK: Select committees are formed, questions asked and as we have seen, the protagonists start to trip themselves up over what they actually knew. The investigators need to be doing more than fending us off with the same tired excuses. Leave this too long and I can guarantee that if this case comes to court, those charged will respond to questions with the rather over used but preferred response in banking investigations ‘ I can’t remember’.

For the individuals concerned, if you have nothing to hide come clean, speak out. Not in a month or two or as long as you and your lawyers can eke out of the situation but NOW. Even for those who do have something to hide as it will serve you better in the long run.

It must be a very fraught and trying existence at the moment. All holding firm and refusing to cooperate but at some stage one person will break rank and ensure self preservation over the common purpose. These are all intelligent people who know that their actions were wrong. Their actions weren’t undertaken with any sinister purpose or deliberate attempt to profit personally.

The greatest relief was when my sentence was handed down

I’m sure that they panicked, saw an insolvent bank on the precipice of disaster and did what they thought was right at the time. There would have been immense conflict, the last-ditch attempts to salvage something but at all times knowing that they had crossed the line.

After fleeing Singapore, I spent a number of fretful days hidden away in hotel rooms trying to avoid the public glare. As the story unfolded I was still very selective in the information that I passed on to my family and friends. Trying to convince everyone that it is not as bad as it seems is ultimately fruitless as nobody is more aware than them of exactly how complicit they all are. It will feel as if it is the right thing to do at the moment but coming clean and giving evidence will ultimately serve them better and bring the whole sorry episode to an end.

It will allow families to come to terms with what may ultimately happen and will allow you yourselves to start to recover from this terrible event. Hiding away will keep you going for a while but that will eventually take a very serious toll. An uncertain future is possibly the most difficult thing to come to terms with, from being on the run, locked up in prison and facing speculation over the length of sentence, the greatest relief was when the sentence was handed down and I could start to recover. Start moving on by doing the right thing now.

Read more of Nick Leeson’s weekly columns for TheJournal.ie>

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