Friday 30 September 2016

Businessman Denis O’Brien tells High Court dossier of documents were part of alleged conspiracy to damage him

Published 14/10/2015 | 16:16

Michael Cush SC, for Mr O'Brien, said his core allegation is the defendants have been involved in authoring and changing documents and that is part of the conspiracy.
Michael Cush SC, for Mr O'Brien, said his core allegation is the defendants have been involved in authoring and changing documents and that is part of the conspiracy.

Businessman Denis O’Brien says a computer memory stick - supplied anonymously to him - contained an "extraordinary" dossier of documents which discloses an alleged concerted and unlawful conspiracy to damage him personally and commercially.

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Mr O’Brien alleges a forensic examination of the dossier by a firm, Epsion, indicates Dublin-based public relations firm Red Flag Consulting Ltd, whose executives include Gavin O'Reilly, former CEO of Independent News & Media and former senior executive with INM, Karl Brophy, are linked to the alleged conspiracy. 

He believes a client of Red Flag is behind the alleged conspiracy and wants to establish the identity of any such client. Mr O'Brien believes the dossier was also designed to be given to people who can avail of parliamentary privilege, the court heard.

Mr O'Brien is claiming damages for alleged defamation and conspiracy.

On Tuesday, his lawyers obtained an interim order on preventing Red Flag interfering with or removing computer material and other IT items from its offices. It was also ordered nothing could be reported until the matter came back before the court on Wednesday.

Applying for the order on Tuesday on an ex-parte (one side only represented) basis, Michael Cush SC, for Mr O'Brien, said the defamatory material was in a dossier including eight Microsoft Office documents on a memory stick provided anonymously to Mr O'Brien following an investigation which he ordered.

The material was clearly defamatory and dealt with matters including Mr O'Brien's involvement with the Moriarty Tribunal, his tax status as a resident in Portugal, the recent initial public offering of shares in Mr O'Brien's Digicel company and other allegations, counsel said.

A court order pemitting access to the company's IT system would enable his side to identify contributors and receivers to the material in question, he said.

The president of the High Court, Mr Justice Nicholas Kearns, said he was not inclined to grant the "quite draconian" order allowing lawyers and investigators enter the Red Flag offices to take control of the computers.

Mr O'Brien's action is against the Red Flag firm and five persons involved with it. They are Gavin O'Reilly and Karl Brophy; Red Flag chairman, Seamus Conboy; account manager Brid Murphy and account executive Kevin Hiney.

The High Court on Wednesday continued the interim orders for preservation of documents contained in the dossier.

These include PDF documents entitled "Who is Denis O'Brien?" and "The Moriarty Tribunal Explainer", along with many Irish and international media articles about the businessman which he contends are mostly unfavourable to him.

The dossier also contains a transcript of a Dail debate relating to the Siteserv transaction.

During Tuesday's proceedings, Mr Cush said none of the articles in the "extraordinary" dossier are "complimentary" to Mr O'Brien and it was clearly put together to brief against his interests. 

Mr Cush also said Karl Brophy was a former journalist with the Irish Mirror who wrote an article in 1998 which ultimately led to Mr O'Brien getting €750,000 damages. Mr Brophy later joined INM and blamed Mr O'Brien for his departure from that company, he said.

There was "a very public prior history" between Gavin O'Reilly and the plaintiff, Mr Cush added. Mr O'Reilly's departure from INM was widely said to coincide with Mr O'Brien taking a very significant shareholding in that company.

On Wednesday, Mr Cush said it seemed there was no point pursuing his application for an order searching the defendants systems as they were on notice of the application and he wanted to change his application to seek an order for inspection of documents.

Mr Cush said his core allegation is the defendants have been involved in authoring documents as part of the conspiracy.

His side was anxious the matter be heard speedily.

All the defendants except Mr O'Reilly were represented by Michael Collins SC who said he needed time to prepare. He had just come into the case and, while it was unclear exactly what it was about and what was being sought, he anticipated he would get instructions to fully defend it.

He also expected he would be representing Mr O'Reilly, who was at the moment in the US.

Mr Collins said the matter was not urgent.

His clients might need to consult with gardai and take proper instructions before deciding on the proper response, he added.

The case comes back on Friday.

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