Irish court convicts 2 Anglo Irish bankers of illegal lending

By Sarah O'Connor

DUBLIN (Reuters) - A Dublin court found two former executives of the collapsed Anglo Irish Bank guilty on Thursday of charges of illegal lending and providing unlawful assistance to investors.

Pat Whelan and Willie McAteer were judged guilty on 10 counts of illegal loans to clients known as the "Maple Ten". They were found not guilty on six other charges of illegal loans to the family of businessman Sean Quinn.

Judge Martin Nolan said that he would consider the arguments for sentencing Whelan and McAteer on April 28 but that he was unlikely to give a decision until later. The maximum sentence on each charge is five years and/or a 3,000 euro fine.

Former Anglo Irish chairman Sean FitzPatrick was found not guilty of the same charges on Wednesday in the first such case since Ireland was rocked by a banking crisis six years ago.

The three men were accused of providing loans to the Maple Ten and to the wife and five children of Quinn in 2008 to enable them to buy shares in the bank, boosting its stock price.

The verdict against former finance director McAteer and Whelan, who was head of lending for Ireland, came after five days of deliberations. Unlike FitzPatrick, they were executive directors at the bank when the transaction took place.

McAteer and Whelan did not react as the verdict was read out, both looking straight ahead and then leaving the courtroom.

"Obviously you had to weigh up many considerations, I thank you for your verdicts," Judge Nolan told the jury. "I think you've been a credit to the jury system."

The three former executives had been accused of providing loans of about 625 million euros (514.90 million pounds) to bank clients to enable them to buy shares in Anglo, unwinding a derivatives position in the bank held by Quinn, once Ireland's richest man and now bankrupt.

The loans were used by the customers, including the wife and five adult children of Quinn, to buy shares in the bank. The Quinns were unwinding a stake of as much as 29 percent in Anglo Irish built up via contracts for difference (CFDs), which do not have to be publicly declared.

The bank's management feared a disorderly unwinding of the CFD position would put the bank in jeopardy.

Quinn's family then bought a 15 percent stake and the 10 other clients, known as the "Maple Ten", took a 10 percent stake.

The stock became worthless once the government took over the bank in 2009, leaving the Quinn family with debts to the bank of almost 3 billion euros and decimating their business empire, which had stretched from insurance to cement.

(Reporting by Sarah O'Connor; Writing by Sam Cage; Editing by John Stonestreet and Hugh Lawson)