Saturday 20 December 2014

Appleby feared unrest over white collar crime cases

Watchdog chief warned over 'economic damage'

Published 03/03/2013 | 05:00

Paul Appleby

PAUL Appleby, the former financial watchdog, warned of "social disruption" and "economic damage" if high-profile white collar crimes are not punished.

Mr Appleby emailed Breda Power, assistant secretary at the Department of Enterprise in July 2012, just before his retirement, raising his concerns over the funding of his crack financial crime investigative unit.

"Notwithstanding the office's successes in recent years, it does need to refocus more effort on criminal investigations which are very resource-intensive as our Anglo investigations have shown," he wrote.

"This approach is necessary to address public unhappiness with the incidence of criminal sanctions for serious misconduct in the company law area.

"If any emerging mood of public cynicism with respect to white-collar crime were to take hold, this would be socially disruptive and economically damaging for the State. It is important that any such trend is checked and reversed."

Mr Appleby retired last July, six months later than planned. He had been due to leave the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement (ODCE) ahead of changes to public sector pension rules but agreed to stay on for an extra six months as the Anglo probe reached a crucial phase.

The civil servant warned the department that his investigative functions would be hampered if key staff were not replaced. Two very senior appointments "must be filled urgently to maintain existing standards of service", he wrote.

However, the former ODCE chief noted that staffing resources "is not the only answer". He added that the ODCE had made "a number of proposals for legislative change" in the company law area. "Similar submissions have also been made to the Department of Justice and Equality in the white collar crime area," he said.

Mr Appleby's ODCE has fronted the probe into Anglo Irish Bank since the bank was nationalised more than four years ago.

Last Friday, former Anglo chairman Sean FitzPatrick was sent to trial on charges of allegedly failing to disclose at least €139m in loans to the banks auditors.

The bankrupt former banker and Smurfit board member was sent for trial in Dublin Circuit Criminal Court after a Book of Evidence was served to him on Friday. He is facing a total of 12 charges in connection with alleged financial irregularities at the bank over a six-year period.

Last week, fugitive solicitor Michael Lynn – now based in Brazil – told Dublin's Best magazine that he had no intention of returning to Ireland. Lynn also denied any wrongdoing and said that he was not a fugitive from justice.

Rogue solicitor Lynn left Ireland when his property empire imploded, leaving investors out of pocket. Ireland does not have an extradition treaty with Brazil.

Irish Independent

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