Dunlop's heart scare collapses trial for corruption
THE largest political corruption trial in modern history has collapsed due to the deteriorating health of star witness Frank Dunlop.
The former lobbyist is facing the prospect of major heart surgery after his declining health led to the collapse of a corruption trial involving a high-profile businessman and several politicians.
Businessman Jim Kennedy, serving councillor Tony Fox and former councillors Don Lydon, Liam Cosgrave and Colm McGrath will not now face any new charges in relation to the alleged corrupt rezoning of land at Carrickmines in south County Dublin.
All five men denied the "money for votes" charges.
Yesterday, the jury in the fraught four-week trial at Dublin's Circuit Criminal Court were discharged after the Director of Public Prosecutions entered an 11th hour decision not to prosecute any of the five men.
But Mr Kennedy may yet face renewed civil action by the Criminal Assets Bureau (CAB) which has taken a case against him and Jackson Way Properties. The case had been on hold, pending the outcome of the criminal trial.
Mr Kennedy is a director of Jackson Way and the CAB alleges the company had been unjustly enriched as a result of rezoning of lands in Carrickmines.
The State's chief witness in the corruption trial was jailed former lobbyist Frank Dunlop whose poor health led to the trial being twice adjourned as he was hospitalised for medical treatment.
The decision by the DPP to withdraw all charges means that Mr Dunlop is the only person to be convicted of corruption in the wake of the long running Mahon Tribunal.
And legal experts say that it will be impossible for the DPP to bring any prosecutions in relation to admissions made by Mr Dunlop in respect of seven other parcels of land.
The Circuit Criminal Court heard that there is "no road back" for Mr Dunlop, who has a cardiac condition.
Mr Dunlop was too ill to comment when contacted by the Irish Independent last night.
But he is said to be "devastated" that his health has called a halt to the trial.
The case against Don Lydon was discharged last Monday after testimony from Mr Dunlop was judged to be prejudicial.
The prosecution's case was based on the testimony of Mr Dunlop who said that he acted as a middleman for Mr Kennedy in bribing the councillors to vote to rezone the land at Jackson Way in Carrickmines.
Last night Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin (pictured) ruled out the prospect of the three former Fianna Fail members – Mr McGrath, Mr Fox and Mr Lydon – re-joining the party. He explained: "No, our decision was taken on the recommendations of the Mahon Tribunal and that still stands. That was the context for the decisions that we took."
Mr Kennedy could now be in line for a €12.8m payoff from a local authority after it acquired some 20 acres of the controversial Carrickmines site to build the M50 motorway. This is because the money was awarded to a shelf company – Jackson Way Properties – of which Mr Kennedy is a director.
The land was acquired under a compulsory purchase order by Dun Laoghaire Rathdown County Council to build the road but Jackson Way and the council could not agree on the price.
Jackson Way was awarded €12.8m following arbitration, a sum that could be claimed by Mr Kennedy if the CAB drops its bid to recoup the money in the wake of the collapse of the criminal trial.
Mr Dunlop, who served an 18-month jail term for his actions, remains the only person to be jailed for corruption in the wake of the 14-year inquiry.
The decision not to prosecute paves the way for publication of the final report of the Mahon Tribunal, which had been held up pending the trial of Mr Kennedy who stood accused of using Mr Dunlop to bribe councillors to vote to rezone potentially valuable land.
Mr Kennedy (66), of Cormorant Way, Queens Quay, Gibraltar, had denied 16 counts of making corrupt payments between June 1992 and October 1997 to members of Dublin County Council to rezone land as industrial.
Dun Laoghaire Rathdown county councillor Mr Fox (72), of Mountainview Park, Churchtown, Dublin, and former councillors Mr McGrath (56), of Swiftwood, Saggart, Co Dublin, and Mr Lydon (74), of Santo Antonio, Stillorgan Park Avenue, Dublin, and Mr Cosgrave (57), of Merrion Park, Blackrock, Dublin, had pleaded not guilty to corruptly receiving money at various locations in Dublin on dates in June 1992 and October 1997 as inducements to rezone lands as industrial.