Thursday 30 March 2017

Garda inquiry will face major evidence obstacles

Michael Lowry pictured outside the Davenport Hotel, Dublin, yesterday
Michael Lowry pictured outside the Davenport Hotel, Dublin, yesterday

Tom Brady and Fiach Kelly

A SENIOR garda officer is to be appointed to review the findings of the Moriarty Tribunal report and establish if there is a basis for a criminal investigation.

This follows the decision of Taoiseach Enda Kenny yesterday that the report should be sent to the Garda Commissioner and the DPP.

Copies of the massive report, which runs to 2,400 pages, are expected to be on their desks this morning.

Mr Kenny told the Dail he had asked Communications Minister Pat Rabbitte to send on the report.

However, any garda investigation will face a number of major obstacles as officers will not be able to use any of the evidence given to the tribunal unless they are able to establish independent verification of it.

Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan is likely to appoint a senior officer to head up a small team to study the findings initially and then report back on whether they warrant a criminal investigation.

If a garda investigation is ordered, it is likely that it will be carried out by either the garda fraud squad or the Criminal Assets Bureau.

However, under the tribunals' legislation, details that emerged from witnesses during the lengthy inquiry cannot be used as evidence in subsequent criminal or civil proceedings and gardai must establish their own evidence for a file to be submitted to the DPP.

But the findings would provide them with an outline on how to move forward and could also act as a guide on seeking the production in court of other types of evidence, such as documentation.

In the Dail, the Taoiseach faced a grilling from Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin and Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams, with both focusing on an undisclosed $50,000 donation given to Fine Gael.

That donation came from Danish company Telenor, but the report said it was instigated by businessman Denis O'Brien in December 1995, two months after Mr O'Brien's Esat Digifone was awarded the second mobile phone licence.

Serious

Telenor were partners of Esat and the donation was reimbursed by Mr O'Brien's company. However, it was later returned by Fine Gael although the party did not disclose details of it to the tribunal.

Mr Martin said the tribunal findings were "very serious with regard to Fine Gael's fundraising practices and the link between those and a major government decision".

Mr Kenny said he regarded the donation as "wrong" and said former Taoiseach John Bruton, upon learning of it, asked that it be returned.

Mr Kenny also claimed the report cleared coalition party leaders and cabinet members.

Mr Adams described the $50,000 donation, lodged into offshore accounts, as "money laundering of a very classical kind" -- a comment which caused laughter from government and opposition TDs.

Meanwhile, Denis O'Brien said yesterday he welcomed the decision to forward the report to the office of the DPP and said he had no doubt that when it had been reviewed, none of the expressions of opinion, which formed the basis of the tribunal's report, would withstand any objective scrutiny.

Irish Independent

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