Wednesday 17 January 2018

Mystery and conspiracy in Court Seven

Denis O'Brien dossier
Denis O'Brien dossier
Ailish O'Hora

Ailish O'Hora

Court Seven at the High Court was just short of an appearance by the tattooed and red-haired Lisbeth Salander, the hacker/researcher and hero of 'The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo' series of novels.

Central to the case in which billionaire businessman Denis O'Brien is claiming unlawful conspiracy and damages for alleged defamation, is a memory stick - supplied to Mr O'Brien anonymously earlier this month - which he said contained an "extraordinary" dossier of documents designed to damage him personally and commercially.

Yesterday, consulting company Red Flag said it was a "mystery" how material from its computers relating to Mr O'Brien ended up on the memory stick in question.

Michael Collins SC, for Red Flag Consulting, wanted to know how the firm's computers were accessed and how the documents ended up on Mr O'Brien's desk.

However, Michael Cush SC, for Mr O'Brien, said his client wanted to urgently inspect the Red Flag firm's computers, alleging a "textbook conspiracy" to harm Mr O'Brien's interests by either lawful or unlawful means.

The two sides have history.

Red Flag is a PR firm operated by Karl Brophy, a former journalist who wrote a defamatory article about Mr O'Brien back in 1998.

The telecoms billionaire was then awarded damages of €750,000, a sum that was later reduced on appeal.

Mr Brophy later became the corporate affairs director at Independent News & Media, the media group that Mr O'Brien is the majority shareholder in- but not before a bitter boardroom battle over the firm that operates this newspaper.

Mr Brophy was an ally of the then-INM chief executive Gavin O'Reilly, whose family were the main shareholders in INM before that position was taken up by Mr O'Brien.

Mr O'Reilly is also chairman of Red Flag Consulting.

The court heard that when Mr O'Brien received the memory stick, he arranged for a forensic investigation of that dossier by IT firm Espion.

The report indicated Red Flag Consulting, and some of its senior executives including Mr Brophy and Mr O'Reilly, are linked to the dossier and alleged conspiracy, he claims.

The dossier relates to matters such as the planned IPO of his Digicel firm, the Moriarty Tribunal and the Siteserv transaction. It contained documents entitled"Who is Denis O'Brien?" and "The Moriarty Tribunal Explainer".

Also included is a document described as a draft speech for Fianna Fáil TD Colm Keaveney.

The forensic report from Espion showed words and phrases used in that speech are suggestive of Mr Brophy contributing to that document, Michael Cush SC, for Mr O'Brien, said.

Mr O'Brien wanted to know who paid Mr Brophy "to craft that".

Mr Justice Colm MacEochaidh ordered forensic imaging of the contents of Red Flag computers be carried out jointly by IT experts for the sides.

He refused Red Flag's application for handover of the memory stick, directing instead that it be given to the plaintiff's solicitor pending further order.

Whatever the outcome, it's the stuff of any good espionage novel - except that it's unfolding in Dublin's city centre.

Irish Independent

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