Probe into Anglo 'an absolute priority' for minister
JUSTICE Minister Alan Shatter last night insisted that the investigation into Anglo Irish Bank remained an "absolute priority" after it emerged that decisions on prosecutions were unlikely to be made until next year.
Mr Shatter moved to defend the independence of Director of Public Prosecutions James Hamilton, who said he would not be ready to proceed until all relevant files had been received.
Mr Hamilton earlier warned that he could not make any decision to prosecute until all files had been given to him by the garda fraud squad and the Director of Corporate Enforcement.
And that is not expected until the end of the year at the earliest, even though the probe began more than two years ago in February 2009 -- and was expected to have been completed by the end of 2010.
Political pressure is mounting over the length of time it is taking to investigate possible financial breaches at the bank.
But Mr Shatter said that since taking office he had introduced new laws to aid investigations in to white-collar crime, and that the Anglo investigation remained a priority.
"We regard it as an absolute priority that the investigation be completed as early as is possible, to facilitate the DPP to finally determine the nature of any criminal prosecution that should be initiated," he said.
Mr Shatter spoke out after the DPP made his remarks on the Anglo probe at a conference over the weekend.
It also followed recent criticism by High Court Judge Mr Justice Peter Kelly of the length of the 27-month investigation.
Amid public unease over delays, the DPP insisted his office was fully resourced to deal with the inquiry when the full set of files were in its possession.
Mr Hamilton, addressing the 12th annual National Prosecutor's conference, said his office had already received a "number of voluminous and carefully prepared files".
He added: "In selecting offences, care must be taken not to overwhelm a jury by a trial which is longer and more complicated than necessary."
He cited this as "a further reason not to take decisions to prosecute" before all the important and relevant evidence was known.
A court heard earlier this month that the investigation was not expected to be completed until the end of the year and that it could take a further two years to complete a prosecution.