Friday 18 August 2017

Shatter told TDs that Anglo investigators were 'experienced'

Former Justice Minister Alan Shatter with the current minister Frances Fitzgerald. Picture: Steve Humphreys
Former Justice Minister Alan Shatter with the current minister Frances Fitzgerald. Picture: Steve Humphreys
Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

Former justice minister Alan Shatter told the Dáil on two occasions that probes into Anglo Irish Bank were being handled by "experienced investigators" from the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement (ODCE).

Last night he said that his Dáil remarks came about after being briefed by gardaí and he was "astonished" by what emerged in the trial of Seán FitzPatrick in relation to the handling of the investigation.

The trial of former Anglo boss Mr FitzPatrick collapsed this week, with ODCE coming in for heavy criticism over how the case was investigated.

During the court proceedings the lead investigator in the case, ODCE solicitor Kevin O'Connell, admitted he had no experience of investigations of such importance or complexity.

Mr FitzPatrick has been cleared of misleading Anglo Irish Bank's auditors about millions of euro in loans, with Judge John Aylmer ruling that he be acquitted and saying the ODCE had been "inappropriately biased" in its approach to the case. In 2011 and 2012, TDs were told by Mr Shatter that Garda probes into the defunct bank were being assisted out by "experienced investigators" from the ODCE.

On December 14, 2011 Fianna Fáil TD Dara Calleary asked for an update on Garda investigations into allegations about events at Anglo Irish Bank.

Mr Shatter said he attached the "highest priority" to the investigation of white collar crime and said he had "already expressed my unhappiness at the protracted nature of the investigations underway". He said this wasn't a criticism of the investigators and prosecutors as they faced "tough challenges as a result of the complexities of the matters being investigated".

He said he was told by Garda authorities that the investigations were ongoing. He also said: "All members of An Garda Síochána allocated to such investigations have previous experience in the investigation of fraud-related offences, and the investigations are augmented by experienced investigators from ODCE."

Mr Shatter gave a similar answer about the experience of ODCE investigators in response to a question from Fine Gael colleague Michelle Mulherin on March 15, 2012.

Last night Mr Shatter said when he first took office in 2011 he had concerns about expertise within the Garda to investigate white collar crime and was assured "they had whatever resources they needed". He said he ensured that a law to help investigators access records from financial institutions was passed before the Dáil summer recess in 2011.

He said the ODCE enforcement wasn't under the remit of the Department of Justice and that he made his Dáil remarks on the ODCE investigators being experienced on the basis of what the Garda had told him. Mr Shatter said he assumed that the Garda had been given such assurances by the ODCE.

He added: "Quite frankly I've been astonished at what I've learned as a result of this trial... I just cannot understand how they progressed their investigation without ensuring that they had the adequate expertise." Mr Shatter said concerns over the experience of ODCE investigators were never raised with him.

Earlier this week an ODCE statement said it accepts criticisms by the judge in the Seán FitzPatrick case, but pointed out that the agency had secured convictions of other individuals in relation to events at Anglo Irish Bank. An ODCE spokesman last night declined to comment when asked if concern had been raised about the experience levels of its staff during the Anglo probes.

Irish Independent

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