Friday 6 December 2019

FitzPatrick's loan inquiry 'not fair' court told

'Inexperienced' ODCE investigator admits mistakes as defence team goes on the offensive

Former Chairman of Anglo Irish Bank, Sean Fitzpatrick (68). Picture: Collins Courts.
Former Chairman of Anglo Irish Bank, Sean Fitzpatrick (68). Picture: Collins Courts.
Shane Phelan

Shane Phelan

The trial of Sean FitzPatrick heard claims that investigators were "prejudiced" against the former Anglo Irish Bank chairman and made up their minds he should be charged even before any witnesses had been interviewed.

Just how the inquiry was conducted by the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement (ODCE) was analysed in minute detail last week at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court. Defence lawyers have argued it was "unfair" and that investigators prejudged the case against FitzPatrick (68).

The lead investigator at the ODCE, legal adviser Kevin O'Connell, faced intense questioning over the course of two days as the defence alleged he had "coached" key witnesses.

His cross-examination by Bernard Condon SC made for compelling and sometimes uncomfortable viewing at the Criminal Courts of Justice in Dublin. O'Connell was forced to admit making several mistakes in his stewardship of the inquiry, so much so that the ODCE has changed its procedures and now only allows gardai to take statements in criminal matters.

But he vehemently denied he and his colleagues had failed to approach the investigation with an open mind.

O'Connell admitted the investigation was hindered by a lack of resources and the fact he had no prior experience of conducting a criminal inquiry.

He had only been cast into the role because gardai on secondment at the ODCE were "flat out" working on other Anglo investigations.

Sean FitzPatrick, of Whitshed Road, Greystones, Co Wicklow, denies 27 charges of misleading Anglo's auditors about the size of multi-million euro loans he had from the bank between 2002 and 2007.

Kevin O'Connell's cross-examination will continue tomorrow.

Sunday Independent

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