Saturday 20 January 2018

ODCE official wasn't probed by gardaí for shredding documents

Mr O’Connell played a lead role in probing allegations Mr FitzPatrick deceived auditors about the size of loans he had received from Anglo. Photo: Collins Courts
Mr O’Connell played a lead role in probing allegations Mr FitzPatrick deceived auditors about the size of loans he had received from Anglo. Photo: Collins Courts
Shane Phelan

Shane Phelan

An official from the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement (ODCE) was never investigated by gardaí despite admitting to the shredding of documents that should have been disclosed to Sean FitzPatrick's defence team.

Lawyers for the former Anglo Irish Bank chairman suggested ODCE legal adviser Kevin O'Connell should have been probed for destruction of evidence or for perverting the course of justice.

Mr O'Connell played a lead role in probing allegations Mr FitzPatrick deceived auditors about the size of loans he had received from Anglo.

But a senior garda told Dublin Circuit Criminal Court the decision not to launch an inquiry was taken, in part, because it was feared it would interfere with Mr FitzPatrick's trial. Detective Chief Superintendent Pat Lordan, head of the Garda National Economic Crime Bureau, also said that the judge who was informed of the shredding - current GSOC chairperson Mary Ellen Ring - had not directed there be an investigation.

He gave evidence to the court in the absence of the jury and it was not informed of his testimony.

The shredding incident took place on May 1, 2015, a day after Mr O'Connell had finished giving six days of evidence during legal argument in Mr FitzPatrick's first trial over the deception allegations. The jury in that trial was discharged without hearing any evidence after the prosecution informed the court of the shredding incident and that Mr O'Connell was medically unfit to give evidence.

Detective Inspector Ray Kavanagh, who was seconded to the ODCE, subsequently compiled a report for Garda management on the shredding incident. It outlined what was disclosed in court, but did not recommend any investigation or prosecution of Mr O'Connell.

During legal argument at the re-fixed trial last October, the court was told DPP Claire Loftus has given Mr O'Connell an assurance that any admissions he made would not be used against him. This occurred after he indicated he would exercise his right not to incriminate himself.

During legal argument, the court was told by Det Chief Supt Lordan there were currently no plans to investigate Mr O'Connell.

He told Judge John Aylmer that he and another senior officer had assessed Det Insp Kavanagh's report and deemed an investigation was not necessary. "The main reason was that it was outlined before the trial judge and the judge did not raise an issue," he said.

"We took into account the trial was coming to court again and we did not want to do anything to interfere with that."

Bernard Condon SC, for Mr FitzPatrick said it was "an absurd suggestion" that the case did not amount to a Garda investigation as there were gardaí serving on secondment at the ODCE.

"It is absolutely extraordinary to say that a person can destroy documents in a criminal investigation and the gardaí don't lift a finger," said Mr Condon. "I suspect that if it was Mr FitzPatrick who did it, he would be lifted out of his bed at six o'clock in the morning. If it was a garda who destroyed his notebook, he would be sacked."

Det Chief Supt Lordan admitted he had not sought any external legal advice on the issue.

Irish Independent

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