Tuesday 20 March 2018

Businessman Des Richardson wins appeal over Mahon Tribunal findings

Des Richardson
Des Richardson

Tim Healy

Businessman and former Fianna Fail fundraiser Des Richardson has won his appeal over the dismissal of his legal challenge to certain findings of the Mahon Tribunal relating to him.

The three judge Court of Appeal on Monday allowed Mr Richardson's appeal against the High Court's rejection of his challenge, which concerned two out of 15 findings made in relation to Mr Richardson.

The case concerned two sections of the final report of the Tribunal of Inquiry in Certain Planning Matters and Payments.

The effect of the decision is the tribunal must quash both sections in its report, as published on its website. While the tribunal had argued a correction already published by it on its website met Mr Richard's concerns, the appeal court said he was entitled to the orders sought.

In its judgment delivered ex tempore at the close of the one day appeal, the president of the appeal court, Mr Justice Sean Ryan, Ms Justice Mary Irvine and Mr Justice Michael Peart said they would allow the appeal.

They agreed with Jim O'Callaghan SC, for Mr Richardson, Serpentine Avenue, Dublin 4, he was deprived of fair procedures in how the tribunal reached the two disputed findings, including he was never asked during examination by tribunal counsel to account for the origin of funds in an account known as the Roevin account.

The findings related to an assertion Mr Richardson had claimed not to have any knowledge of the source of IR39,000 and had failed to account for the source of that. He complained the findings were made despite his not being asked about that.

The appeal court noted the findings raised issues affecting Mr Richardson's constitutional rights and entitlement to fair procedures.

Mr Richardson had appealed against a March 2013 judgment of Ms Justice Elizabeth Dunne, then a High Court judge, in which she accepted as a matter of fact there was a mistake in the disputed findings relating to Mr Richardson but said it was up to the tribunal, not the court, to correct that.

That error of fact was replicated in another paragraph of its findings where the tribunal said it found it incredible Mr Richardson was unable to account to the tribunal for the origins of the funds in an account, she noted.

This was a case where there was a mistake of fact on one issue in respect of the findings of the tribunal relating to Mr Richardson, that was an error within jurisdiction not amenable to judicial review and she had no doubt the tribunal would he be happy to correct the error, the judge said.

The businessman gave evidence over several days to the tribunal in respect of its investigations into the finances of former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern.  The tribunal heard that funds from a company, Roevin Ireland Ltd, were used in 1993 to purchase a bank draft paid to Mr Ahern. Mr Richardson was examined extensively about his involvement with Roevin over two days of the Tribunal's public sittings.

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