Naming bankers 'could prejudice garda probe'
Published 02/10/2010 | 05:00
THE inquiry into the cause of the near collapse of the Irish banking system will not name a single person it finds to be responsible because of legal restrictions.
A Government source said last night that the Banking Commission's decision not to identify anybody by name was likely to have been motivated by a desire to avoid prejudicing any pending or future criminal prosecutions against those responsible for the banking crisis.
But it means that senior bankers such as former Anglo Irish Bank chair Sean FitzPatrick, former Irish Nationwide boss Michael Fingleton and former AIB boss Eugene Sheehy can be confident already that the Banking Commission of Investigation, headed by Peter Nyberg, will contain no specific references to them in its report.
In its rules and privileges document, the Banking Commission states: "It is not the inquiry's intention to identify any person in its interim or final report."
The Banking Commission will also hold all of its hearings in private, so the public will never get to hear the evidence given by senior bankers, former Financial Regulator Patrick Neary, or politicians such as Taoiseach Brian Cowen, who was Finance Minister from September 2004 to April 2008 -- just before the crisis began.
The Department of Finance said last night that the decision not to identify anyone in the Banking Commission of Investigation's final report was "at the discretion of the Commission itself", a spokesman said.
"They are the ones that make the decision and they are totally independent."
It emerged yesterday that the inquiry's head, former senior Finnish government official Peter Nyberg, will be paid €1,000 per day for his work, as well as a monthly expenses allowance of €4,000 for travel and accommodation.
Fine Gael TD Brian Hayes said the vast majority of Irish workers, let alone the 450,000 Irish people on the dole, would be gobsmacked by the scale of the fees.
"It is a further insult on top of all the efforts and sacrifices they are being forced to make to bail out these banks," he said.
The Government has already set aside €2m to fund the costs of the banking inquiry this year and Mr Nyberg has commenced the process of recruiting experts. He is expected to deliver his report in the middle of next year.
The Irish Independent has also learned that barristers will be able to earn up to €900 per day for their work at the forthcoming banking inquiry.
Although the Government has put in provisions to ensure that only those whose good names are at risk are granted free legal representation, their senior counsel will then be entitled to €900 a day and their junior counsel, €500 a day.
Solicitors hired by witnesses who have got the go-ahead from the inquiry will also be entitled to €500 a day.
Witnesses such as bankers and property developers will also be able to claim travel expenses for attending the inquiry -- although these are far below the civil service rates, at 16.64 cents per kilometre.
"Where possible, public transport (bus or rail) should be used. Taxis should only be used where another reasonable alternative does not exist," according to the inquiry.
The details of the fees are contained in the Banking Commission's rules and principles, which have just been published.
The Government has put strict conditions in place in regard to legal fees to prevent a re-occurrence of the costly bills from previous state investigations. The final bill for legal claims at the 13-year-old Mahon Tribunal inquiry is expected to rise to more than €100m.