THE investigation into alleged irregularities at the former Anglo Irish Bank could continue for at least another year.
The High Court has extended for another 12 months the investigation by the Director of Corporate Enforcement into the 2008 collapse of the bank.
And criminal trials arising from the probe, including one involving the bank's former chairman Sean FitzPatrick, appear unlikely to open until late this year at the earliest.
The director had sought a three-year extension of orders allowing retention of documents seized from the bank for the investigation, which began four years ago.
The extension was sought to complete the probe and facilitate what the Director of Public Prosecutions anticipates will be lengthy criminal trials arising from some of the matters being investigated.
The court also heard the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement (ODCE) believed the investigations have disclosed matters which will warrant other decisions by the DPP.
Mr Justice Peter Kelly yesterday said he would extend the orders only for one year to January 17, 2014, as he was anxious a three-year extension would not give rise to any reduction in the "intensity" of the probe.
He was not suggesting such a reduction in intensity would happen, he stressed.
The judge noted investigations had concluded into two of five issues being investigated. If the investigations had concluded into all five issues and decisions had been taken whether to prosecute or not regarding all five, he would have granted the three-year extension as a lengthy trial process would be anticipated, he said.
The judge was told the DPP has brought charges against former Anglo executives in relation to the two matters where investigations have concluded.
Former Anglo chairman Sean FitzPatrick and two former executives – Pat Whelan and Willie McAteer – have been charged arising from the investigation into possible breaches of Section 60 of the Companies Act prohibiting a financial institution advancing loans to buy its own shares.
They are accused of unlawfully helping to back investors – including members of Sean Quinn's family – to buy Anglo shares in 2008.
A book of evidence has been served in that case but a process of what was described as "mammoth" disclosure to the defendants is under way and it is expected it will be some time before a trial date is set.
That matter will be mentioned before Dublin Circuit Criminal Court next week when the DPP hopes a judge will be assigned to specially manage the case.
Una Ni Raifeartaigh, counsel for the DPP, said the normal waiting period for a trial in the Circuit Criminal Court is one year but that might be reduced if the case was managed by a designated judge.
Arising from the investigation into a second issue – the alleged "warehousing" of loans to Anglo directors in the Irish Nationwide Building Society – Mr FitzPatrick was charged last month with failing to disclose an arrangement between Anglo and INBS under which the building society loaned him money between 2002 and 2007.
He was also charged with allegedly deceiving the failed bank's auditors in relation to his personal loans over that same period. A book of evidence in those proceedings may be served in March, Ms Ni Raifeartaigh indicated.
The investigation into the three other issues is continuing.