Friday 30 September 2016

Drumm 'annoyed' over leak of video link offer that has divided TDs

Donal O'Donovan, Shane Phelan and John Downing

Published 25/07/2015 | 02:30

David Drumm believed his offer would be confidential
David Drumm believed his offer would be confidential

Disgraced banker David Drumm is said to be "extremely annoyed" that details of confidential correspondence between him and the Oireachtas Banking Inquiry have been made public.

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The inquiry threatened to descend into farce after it emerged that the fugitive was refusing to appear before it in person and its members were divided on whether Mr Drumm should be allowed testify via video link.

It also emerged that the Director of Public Prosecutions is likely to have the final say and could bar Mr Drumm from giving evidence in any form.

A source close to the former Anglo Irish Bank chief executive said Mr Drumm was upset after it was 'leaked' that he had offered to give evidence from the US via video link, rather than returning to Ireland.

Mr Drumm believed that his offer would be treated with full confidentiality.

However, details of the offer, and his refusal to attend in person, emerged earlier this week.

The banker has been in a self-imposed exile in Massachusetts since 2009 and has refused to return home voluntarily to be interviewed by gardaí investigating matters at Anglo.

Mr Drumm's contact with the inquiry was conducted by a lawyer acting on his behalf.

According to the source, "family and work commitments" were cited as his reason for not travelling to Dublin.

The source said Mr Drumm believed that video conferencing was "just as effective" as appearing in person.

"Mr Drumm's view is that he will co-operate fully and completely in every respect in relation to questions and answers, via video conference, in the same way he would if he were in Dublin," the source said.

The inquiry has sought legal advice on what to do about the situation, with its membership divided on whether or not to accept the video link offer.

Lawyers for the banking inquiry are to contact the office of the DPP to see if it has any difficulty with Mr Drumm giving evidence.

Whether or not the DPP, Claire Loftus, raises any objections will be a crucial factor.

US authorities are currently considering an application for Mr Drumm's extradition to face charges in connection with matters at the former bank.

Garda sources said the extradition application had been formally passed to US authorities several months ago and remained under active consideration.

Politicians are deeply divided on the issue of whether or not Mr Drumm's evidence should be heard by video link.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny said Mr Drumm should come back and testify. He said that Mr Drumm should comply with the directive of the banking inquiry "fully and completely".

However, two Fine Gael TDs on the inquiry committee took opposing views to each other on the issue.

Eoghan Murphy said he was opposed to the video link proposal, but his party colleague on the committee, John-Paul Phelan, said that it should go ahead.

Fianna Fáil TD and committee member Michael McGrath said it would be "a grave error" to take video evidence.

He said Mr Drumm should return to Ireland to co-operate with the criminal investigations and should also attend the inquiry in person.

Mr McGrath said his own legal advice was that by refusing to appear before the committee in Leinster House next Wednesday, Mr Drumm was already breaking the law.

"I will not support or play any part in such an exercise," Mr McGrath said.

Legal

As well as seeking the DPP's views, the committee's lawyers will assess whether the use of video evidence is legally permissible.

They will also examine whether it can be used to cross-question other witnesses and whether it would be usable in writing the committee's final report.

Already, the DPP has effectively prevented some witnesses from appearing but allowed the questioning of one witness to go ahead.

Results of these exercises are expected to be available on Monday ahead of a decisive meeting of the inquiry scheduled for Tuesday.

Irish Independent

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