Monday 21 May 2018

Anglo banker trials to take three years – courts

Tim Healy

IT is expected to take three years to complete the criminal trials of people charged arising from a three and a half year investigation by the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement (ODCE) into the 2008 collapse of the former Anglo Irish Bank, the High Court heard.

Mr Justice Peter Kelly today repeated his view the investigation was taking "longer than desirable" when agreeing to extend for six months orders allowing the retention of documents seized from the Bank for the purpose of that investigation.

He refused the Director's application to extend the orders for three years on grounds he wanted to keep progress in all areas of the probe under review "as it seems activity takes place just before review".

If he extended the orders for the longer period sought, progress may not be as expeditious as hoped, the judge added.

The Director of Corporate Enforcement had applied for a three year extension arising from circumstances including the fact that former Anglo CEO Sean Fitzpatrick and two other former executives - Willie McAteer and Pat Whelan - were charged within the last 24 hours arising from completion of one of the five strands of the probe.

Cousnel for the Director of Public Ptosecutions, Una Ni Raifeartaigh, said the DPP had taken the view there was enough evidence at this stage to have brought these charges.

The charges represented the culmination of a very long and complex examination and there had to be a balance between getting matters to court and "getting it right", she said.

The judge said he would extend the investigation for six months to January 17 in circumstances where he had observed it was taking a very long time and where developments appeared to happen on the eve of reviews by the High Court of progress in the probe.

He noted three persons have just been charged and that, when the court was previously reviewing matters last January, the Director of Public Prosecutions had indicated she was changing her view that no persons would be charged until all five strands of the investigation were complete.

This was the ninth application to the court for an extension of the document seizure orders, he said. While he had previously noted the investigation was very complex and had encountered difficulties including reluctant witnesses, he was still of the view it was taking longer than was desirable.

He was told the investigation into one of the five strands - whether there was assistance provided by Anglo Irish bank to others to buy its shares in possible breach of Section 60 of the Companes Act - had completed and three persons had been charged in that regard, the judge noted.

The investigation into the other four strands was continuing although the court was told today it was substantially complete with files having been sent to the DPP in that regard.

Those other strands included the making of loans by Anglo to former directors and the warehousing of certain directors loans by Irish Nationwide Building Society; back to back deposits which Anglo undertook with Irish Life & Permanent in 2008; a loan to an Anglo director in circumstances involving a possible breach of common law or Section 197 of the Companies Act; and the provision of possible misleading or false information in public statements by Anglo in breach of the EU Transparency Directive.

The Garda Bureau of Fraud Investigation is conducting a parallel investigation into Anglo and late last year sent a file to the DPP on back to back deposits which Ango undertook with Irish Life & Permanent in September 2008.

Mr Justice Kelly was told in January the delay in fully completing all five strands of the investigation arose from several factors, including the reluctance of persons regarded as key witnesses to provide statements. Delays also appeared related to awaiting legal advices on files sent to the DPP and addressing issues raised in such advice.

Progress had been made following enactment of the Criminal Justice Act 2011 providing for reluctant persons to be compelled to provide certain documents and information, the court was told.

The ODCE investigation began after millions of files were seized from the bank in February 2009. High Court orders are required to allow for an extended power of seizure over those documents and the court must also be kept informed of the progress of the investigation.

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