Tuesday 24 October 2017

Lead investigator 'shredded documents in Sean FitzPatrick probe' - court hears

Sean FitzPatrick Photo: Collins Courts
Sean FitzPatrick Photo: Collins Courts
Shane Phelan

Shane Phelan

The lead investigator in the Sean FitzPatrick loans probe shredded documents related to the case, a court has heard.

Kevin O’Connell, a legal advisor at the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement (ODCE), described the shredding as “a calamitous error” which occurred at a time when he was under “enormous pressure”.

Mr O’Connell made the disclosure as he underwent his third day of cross examination at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court.

He has already accepted he was an “inexperienced” investigator and that he made several mistakes in his stewardship of the inquiry, so much so that the ODCE has changed its procedures and now only allows gardaí to take statements in criminal matters.

“Unfortunately at the later stage of the investigation, I made a calamitous error,” he told the court.

“I shredded a small number of documents which ought not to have been shredded.”

Bernard Condon SC, for Mr FitzPatrick, said this occurred after he had cross examined Mr O’Connell during Mr FitzPatrick’s 2015 trial, which did not reach a conclusion.

Mr O’Connell agreed that was when the shredding occurred.

“It was a time of enormous pressure and I made a dreadful mistake which I thereafter acknowledged and admitted to,” he said.

The court heard the shredded documents were generally notes of conversations Mr O’Connell had with representatives of A&L Goodbody, the law firm which advised Anglo Irish Bank’s auditors Ernst & Young.

The trial has previously heard claims from Mr Condon that the investigation was “unfair” and that investigators prejudged the case against Mr FitzPatrick (68).

It is claimed Mr O’Connell coached two key witnesses on their evidence.

These were Ernst & Young auditors Kieran Kelly and Vincent Bergin.

The defence says they had access to each other’s statements and were “coached” on what to include in those statements.

Instead of the usual process where gardaí would call in a witness for questioning, Mr O’Connell opted to allow the auditors draft their own statements.

But what unfolded was a lengthy process where the statements were, in the words of Mr Condon, written “by committee”, with input from the ODCE and a number of Ernst & Young’s legal advisors.

The process, and the scale of the engagement between Mr O’Connell and Ernst & Young, became apparent to the defence team after numerous drafts were disclosed during pre-trial discovery.

Mr O’Connell previously told the court he chose this method of taking the statements as he did not believe either auditor would agree to being interviewed without having their lawyers present.

However, Mr Condon said the court would hear both men would have had no difficulty giving statements without the help of lawyers, but were never asked. He said this was an example of Mr O’Connell “ritually prejudging issues without evidence”.

The case continues.

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