Tuesday 23 January 2018

CAB probe into Lowry stalled by volume of files

Agency trawling through paperwork for evidence

FINDINGS: Michael Lowry denies the Moriarty conclusions Photo: PA
FINDINGS: Michael Lowry denies the Moriarty conclusions Photo: PA


THE Criminal Assets Bureau (CAB) has yet to decide whether the Tipperary TD Michael Lowry should face investigation over the Moriarty tribunal's finding that he received payments from the businessman Denis O'Brien.

The bureau began reviewing the tribunal's report on the orders of the Garda Commissioner in March to identify potential criminality. A senior source said its review of the 2,400-page report is far from complete, with the task proving more onerous than anticipated. Ten CAB officers were assigned to review Mr Justice Michael Moriarty's finding in March but the volumes of material, transcripts and appendices has impeded progress.

The CAB's focus is on establishing the purpose of the alleged payments and "whether, at this point in time, we can reasonably expect to be able to get evidence", according to the source. "We have not reached the point where our report is ready or even drafted."

Gardai are examining the report's findings for suspected criminality, including "unjust enrichment".

Mr Justice Moriarty found that the former Fine Gael minister helped secure the winning of a lucrative mobile phone licence for Mr O'Brien, in 1995.

He also was "satisfied that payments and other benefits... were furnished by and on behalf of Mr Denis O'Brien to Mr Michael Lowry".

Mr Lowry and Mr O'Brien have strenuously denied the findings. Mr Lowry, an independent TD for Tipperary, told the Dail last month: "Let me make it quite clear... you can send in CAB, you can send in the army, you can send in whoever you like to investigate my affairs because there will be no £900,000 found because it was never there." Denis O'Brien said he did not give Mr Lowry a "red cent".

If an investigation into the findings proceeds, however, the CAB can ask the High Court to seize assets and search properties based on nothing more than "reasonable suspicion" that an offence has occurred.

The agency will not be able to use Mr Justice Moriarty's report as the basis for evidence in a potential criminal action, but will have to re-interview hundreds of witnesses and obtain fresh details from financial records. This will be made more difficult because of the lapse of time since the events.

The only reference to corruption in the report related to Mr Lowry's attempt to influence a rent increase that would have benefited the former supermarket tycoon, Ben Dunne, at the cost of the taxpayer. The report described what was attempted as "profoundly corrupt".

The Dail passed a motion of censure of Mr Lowry, criticising his conduct as unacceptable and calling on him to resign. Mr Lowry refused. Mr O'Brien has said that Mr Justice Moriarty's findings were based solely on "opinions which find no basis in evidence, fact and law" and would not withstand "objective scrutiny".

Sunday Independent

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