Tuesday 6 December 2016

O'Brien worried files sent to hedge funds

Published 12/12/2015 | 02:30

Denis O’Brien
Denis O’Brien

Businessman Denis O'Brien fears that a dossier commissioned by a mystery client of a Dublin PR firm was sent to hedge funds, the High Court has heard.

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His concern was outlined during an application by Mr O'Brien, who is seeking a court order to unmask the identity of a client who commissioned a dossier on Mr O'Brien from PR firm Red Flag. Mr O'Brien claims the dossier is evidence of a campaign to damage him.

Yesterday, his lawyer, Senior Counsel Michael Cush, told High Court judge Mr Justice Colm MacEochaidh that among Mr O'Brien's concerns is whether the dossier, particularly material in it about the planned public offering earlier this year of his company Digicel (which ultimately did not proceed), was sent to hedge funds.

"It was clearly relevant whether the client is a 'benign hedge fund' or a rival of Mr O'Brien's," said Mr Cush, adding that the issue was not whether the dossier was published to millions but "who it was sent to".

Before reserving judgment in the special discovery application, Judge MacEochaidh observed that Mr O'Brien's case against Red Flag "will have every public relations firm in the city wondering" if they are committing conspiracy". The judge hopes to rule by the end of the law term on December 21.

Mr O'Brien claims that Red Flag and its unknown client are involved in the alleged campaign and he wants the client's identity now so that he can sue that client, along with Red Flag, for damages for alleged conspiracy and defamation.

Mr O'Brien rejects claims by Red Flag of a "lack of candour" by him in relation to how he learned of Red Flag's involvement with the dossier.

Opposing the application, Michael Collins SC, for Red Flag, argued that it has a duty of confidentiality to the client and that there is no legal basis for the order, which was a "fishing exercise" involving a "procedural morass".

There was, he said, no "clear and unambiguous" evidence of the alleged hostile campaign.

Mr Collins told the court that Mr O'Brien had been refused orders last October to seize computers and devices from Red Flag's offices.

Instead, he got freezing orders, preserving material on the devices, and further orders permitting imaging of the material. He had deferred another application for orders to inspect the imaged documents.

Now, said Mr Collins, Mr O'Brien wanted this "exceptional" order, which would cause "irreparable harm" to the firm's consulting and communications business.

It had already been damaged by the proceedings, counsel argued. Many of the firm's clients were concerned that data of theirs held by Red Flag had been forensically imaged as part of Mr O'Brien's proceedings.

Ireland was being seen as a jurisdiction where public relations firms may potentially be compelled to disclose their clients' identities, counsel said.

'Frank'

Mr O'Brien had failed to be "frank" in a sworn statement last October, the basis for his application for orders to seize devices of Red Flag, he said.

This concerned how a USB memory stick with the dossier of material about him "materialised" on his Dublin office desk like "Dr Who's Tardis". There was "implausibility stamped over all this", counsel said.

Mr O'Brien initially gave no information about where the memory stick was delivered to but later said it came to his offices in an unmarked envelope with the decryption code written inside the envelope.

There was no explanation how someone "waltzed" through security in the "centre of his empire" to leave an envelope on his desk. Mr O'Brien had in the same October affidavit given the impression that he had hired a "Jason Bourne" team of professional investigators to find the source of the alleged campaign against him.

What actually happened was a "one-man" Irish accountant based in Ukraine did a "desk-top search" of media articles about him, said Mr Collins.

Kiev-based accountant John Whelehan has said all he did was search publicly available media reports about Mr O'Brien, counsel said.

Irish Independent

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