Threat of arrests in Anglo probe
Gardai to grill key figures in loan scandal as inquiry enters 'crucial phase'
KEY FIGURES in the Anglo Irish Bank loans and deposits controversy are to face intensive questioning by gardai soon, as the probe enters a crucial phase.
And some may be arrested if investigating officers are not satisfied with their level of co-operation while being interviewed.
Gardai have set a target of late spring for the completion of a file to be sent to the Director of Criminal Prosecutions, who will determine if criminal charges should be brought arising out of the inquiries.
A senior officer said last night: "We are aiming to have this investigation brought to a close within a couple of months to allow us to send off the file.
"We are now entering a critical phase in our inquiries after a huge trawl through the documentation and computer files seized from the bank last year."
The Garda National Fraud Bureau, which is spearheading the inquiries with the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement, has been beefed up further with the addition last night of a second detective superintendent.
Commissioner Fachtna Murphy has transferred Supt Colm Featherstone, a former fraud detective, back into the bureau to ease the workload on existing senior officers and help speed up the Anglo inquiries.
He fills a vacancy which arose from an early retirement in the bureau, and is one of a number of promotions and transfers announced last night by the commissioner.
The garda investigation, led by Assistant Commissioner Derek Byrne, is focusing in particular on the movement of €7.45bn in deposits between Anglo Irish and Irish Life & Permanent to bolster Anglo's books and an allegation that an attempt was made to conceal details of loans to former Anglo chairman Sean FitzPatrick from the shareholders.
It is also concentrating on the controversial loan of €450m to a 'golden circle' of 10 investors to buy bank shares, which had originally been built up by businessman Sean Quinn.
Hundreds of witnesses are being interviewed as part of the inquiries, which have spread overseas.
Among those being interviewed are Mr FitzPatrick and other senior officials in the bank, including former chief executive David Drumm.
Comm Murphy has already promised that the garda file would be sent to the DPP "at the earliest opportunity" but said the investigation was complex, had massive scope and covered a lengthy period. The gardai are looking for evidence of any breaches of the Companies Act and the Criminal Justice (Theft and Fraud Offences) Act, 2001. A person found guilty of offences under the legislation faces a sentence of up to 10 years in prison and a fine.
Meanwhile, other garda moves last night included: newly promoted chief superintendents Brendan Mangan to Kerry and Catherine Kehoe to Tipperary; existing chiefs Dave Sheahan to Limerick; and John Kerin to Kerry; while at superintendent rank Frank Walsh is transferring to the operations section, Gerry O'Brien to Bailieboro and Mary Lernihan to Gorey.