Investigator claims key people are still refusing to co-operate in Anglo probe
More than 10 key people are refusing to co-operate with the two-year-old Anglo Irish Bank investigation with lead investigator Paul Appleby admitting there is nothing he can do to make them come forward.
He agreed he had no "leverage'' over the individuals and he was essentially depending on their good will to come forward.
"They have to make themselves voluntarily available,'' he told reporters yesterday as he unveiled his annual report. He declined to name those refusing to co-operate, but admitted some of them were living outside Ireland.
However, accountants, legal firms and audit firms are co-operating with the €1m probe, he reported.
Mr Appleby said some of those refusing to come forward to provide witness statements had not given reasons, but were simply "reluctant''.
At the presentation of his annual report he said those not coming forward had sent letters via their lawyers, but would not sit down and give a statement about key transactions.
The investigation did not "hinge'' on these people, he claimed, but the office would prefer a "positive response'' from this group.
Mr Appleby, who heads the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement (ODCE), strongly rejected suggestions the investigation was too slow and not making progress. He said Ireland gave "significant legal safeguards'' to potential suspects.
New powers being introduced by Justice Minister Alan Shatter under the Criminal Justice Bill 2011 could be used to make witnesses co-operate, said Mr Appleby, but they wouldn't be needed if people "change their mind''.
Mr Appleby is under pressure to wrap up his joint investigation with the gardai by year end. He said similar investigations in the UK typically took four-to-six years and the Anglo investigation was "well ahead of that benchmark''.
Mr Appleby found himself under sustained questioning over the lack of charges so far laid against any bank executives, but he said this was matter for the DPP ultimately. He said it was not correct to compare Ireland with the US, and comparisons with Europe and UK were more appropriate.
Some 200 people have assisted the investigation, but another 50 have yet to be interviewed, he said. Co-operation from current Anglo Irish staff has been excellent, he said, but others weren't prepared to come forward.
Mr Appleby said Ireland's legal system was very "adversarial'' and every step taken by investigators was open to "intense legal scrutiny''.
High Court judge Peter Kelly recently questioned the progress of the investigation and has only given Mr Appleby emergency powers until July. At that point Mr Appleby's team are likely to look for a further extension.
Efforts to prosecute bankers turning out to be a damp squib: Comment - Page 35