Friday 24 November 2017

ODCE asks for forensic accountants to prosecute more cases

The Director of Corporate Enforcement, Ian Drennan pictured. Picture credit: Steve Humphreys
The Director of Corporate Enforcement, Ian Drennan pictured. Picture credit: Steve Humphreys

Dearbhail McDonald, Legal Editor

THE Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement (ODCE) says it needs to hire at least five new forensic accountants as part of a “strategic shift” to bring more high-profile prosecutions.

The ODCE, whose investigation into activities at the former Anglo Irish Bank led to the recent conviction of two directors for providing illegal loans, brings most of its prosecutions in the District Court where offences are tried before a judge only and the maximum jail term is 12 months.

But the ODCE, which has just launched its annual report for 2013, says it wants to beef up its investigation units to support the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) bring cases before the Circuit Court, in the hope that jail terms and large fines could have a “significantly greater deterrent effect”.

Any prosecutions above District Court level must be brought by the DPP.

Director Ian Drennan said that the office requires to be “further professionalised” to concentrate on more complex and serious company law investigations in civil and criminal proceedings.

“If the office is to reach its full potential and realise its ambitions of concentrating on suspected wrongdoing at the more serious end of the spectrum, the current insufficiency of in-house accountancy expertise will have to be addressed,” said Mr Drennan.

The ODCE has a staff complement of 42.9 whole time equivalents (WTEs).

This includes one accountant, six solicitors and 6.5 members of An Garda Siochana. The office’s budget for 2013 was set at €5.38m, but spent only €3.12m of its allocation.

The savings arose because of staff reductions last year and the non-crystallisation of legal costs that had been anticipated.

Last year, the ODCE secured 17 criminal convictions in the District Court; the restriction of 219 company directors, the disqualification of 25 individuals and the voluntary rectification (correction) of some €62m worth of directors loans.

Last March, two former Anglo directors, Pat Whelan and William McAteer, were each found guilty of 10 counts of providing illegal loans to the group of investors known as the Maple 10 to prop up the Anglo share price.

Sean FitzPatrick, the bank’s former chairman, was acquitted of engaging in an illegal share support scheme and is now seeking his legal costs – estimated at up to €1m – from the State.

Mr Whelan and Mr McAteer are awaiting sentence.

Trial judge Martin Nolan has already indicated they will receive community service instead of a jail term on condition they are deemed suitable by the Probation Service.

They were remanded on bail until July 31 when Judge Nolan will finalise sentence.

The three bankers were charged at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court with 16 counts of providing unlawful financial assistance to 16 individuals in July 2008 to buy shares in the bank. The borrowers comprised six members of Sean Quinn’s family and the Maple 10 group.

Mr Whelan also was charged with being privy to the fraudulent alteration of loan facility letters to seven individuals in October 2008.

Mr Whelan and Mr McAteer were convicted of providing the Maple 10 loans but acquitted of providing loans the Quinn family. Mr Whelan was acquitted on the charges relating to the loan facility letters while Mr FitzPatrick was acquitted of all charges.

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