Merkel, Kenny slam former Irish bank directors

'Contempt, arrogance, insolence' - Irish, German leaders slam banker comments in Anglo scandal

Associated Press
Irish, German leaders slam Anglo bank's arrogance
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German Chancellor Angela Merkel speaks with an unidentified member of her delegation as she walks to a media conference during an EU summit in Brussels on Friday, June 28, 2013. After late night budget talks, European Union leaders are turning their attention away from their financial troubles Friday and toward embracing once-troubled Balkan countries. (AP Photo/Michel Euler)

BRUSSELS (AP) -- German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Friday blasted newly disclosed comments by ex-bosses of a bailed-out Irish bank who mocked foreign depositors and conspired to conceal the true scale of the bank's losses.

Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny was quick to back Merkel, saying the comments "show the contempt and the arrogance and the insolence of senior personnel working at that bank."

The internal calls published earlier this week featured, among other things, one Anglo Irish Bank executive telling others to attract depositors from abroad, particularly Germany. A colleague replied by singing the "Deutschland ueber alles" line of the German national anthem that was dropped after World War II.

Asked about the comments at a European Union summit in Brussels, Merkel said their tone is "very, very hard to bear — if not impossible to bear — for people who go to work every day in a normal way and earn their money."

Such remarks are "really damaging to democracy," she said, adding that "I really have only contempt for this."

Ireland had to negotiate an international bailout in 2010 after rescuing its major banks. Germany had to pump billions into some of its own banks during the 2008-2009 financial crisis following the demise of Lehman Brothers.

Ireland's parliament is set to open an investigation into the disastrous bailout of Anglo Irish following the publication of the taped conversation. The inquiry aims at finding out what exactly happened when the failing bank pushed Ireland to the brink of bankruptcy and into seeking a bailout itself. Anglo was probably Ireland's most aggressive lender until a real estate bubble bust amid the 2008-2009 crisis.

Kenny, in his strongest comments yet on the matter, said the "tapes are a thunderbolt."

"They are shining a bright light on the vulgarity" of those bankers, he said, adding they considerably damaged the country's reputation.

Saving the bank ultimately cost 64 billion euros ($83 billion), nearly half of that to pay off creditors.

The internally recorded calls, obtained by the Irish Independent newspaper, document how bank executives misled the Central Bank of Ireland into believing Anglo required only 7 billion euros in rescue money that would be repaid. Anglo ultimately required about 30 billion euros, none of it repaid.

Three of Anglo's top directors already face criminal charges related to alleged accounting fraud.

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