Former FAI boss trying to prevent investigators from accessing information on his business dealings and divorce
A court filing has revealed that records the former Football Association of Ireland chief executive John Delaney is trying to keep from a criminal investigation include hundreds of email exchanges with FAI executives who worked on his personal business ventures and divorce case.
The High Court reserved judgment last month on an application from the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement (ODCE) to access 1,123 emails and a small batch of hard-copy records seized from the FAI headquarters in February 2020. Delaney claims the records are legally privileged.
The ODCE, which includes seconded gardaí on its investigation team, is examining Delaney’s use of FAI financial resources.
A spreadsheet submitted to Judge Leonie Reynolds in the case and obtained by the Sunday Independent shows Delaney claims privilege over hundreds of emails with Karl Heffernan and Rea Walshe, two senior FAI executives who also helped him with personal business ventures and family law matters.
Neither Walshe, a solicitor who became the FAI’s interim CEO when Delaney became executive vice-president in March 2019, nor Heffernan, a former banker recruited by Delaney to be the FAI’s commercial director, work for the FAI now.
A small number of emails with Eamon Breen, the FAI’s former finance director, are also claimed to be privileged due to them relating to family law. Privilege is claimed by Delaney on emails sent to his sister, Jane O’Driscoll, his brother, Paul, and his former fiancee, Emma English.
He is also seeking to prevent gardaí seeing emails with Cahir O’Higgins, a solicitor who is said to have advised on family law issues. O’Higgins is representing former FAI honorary secretary Michael Cody, who gardaí attached to the ODCE have interviewed about Delaney’s contract, which included a €3m ‘golden handcuffs’ deal about which most of the FAI board knew nothing.
Other emails Delaney is seeking to shield include three with Terry Prone, a PR guru, that are said to concern defamation and reputation issues, and a number sent to Des Grace, his long-time accountant based in Kerry.
Among the transactions under investigation is an FAI payment of €100,000 made in February 2019 to the client account of Paddy Goodwin, Delaney’s solicitor, who also acted for the FAI on some matters. The focus of this line of enquiry is understood to be the source of the payment.
The ODCE is also investigating transactions involving Pillarview, a company owned by friends of Delaney, that refinanced some of his business debts arising from a development company called JMPHE. Karl Heffernan was listed as an official contact for Pillarview in company filings before it entered liquidation in 2020.
Among the emails listed between Delaney and Heffernan are some prepared “in the context of family law proceedings”. In a series of emails, Heffernan is copied on discussions between Delaney and his Bank of Ireland private wealth managers on the subject of “property finance”.
There are more than 50 emails involving Heffernan that relate to Pillarview or JMPHE, over which Delaney has claimed privilege.
He notes that Pillarview or JMPHE, of which he is a director, may also claim privilege on some emails. He claims the records relate to his family law case or contain “company law advice”.
A series of emails relates to a “shareholder dispute” while others concern Gerfurn, another Delaney company, and Ronstrap, a separate firm.
Delaney claims privilege over dozens of emails involving his partners in JMPHE, who include Hilary Quinlan, a former Fine Gael councillor in Waterford.
Quinlan is also included on some emails sent to Delaney’s sister on the subject of a property in Tralee.
Many emails involving Rea Walshe relate to Delaney’s defamation claims against various media organisations.
However, there are also emails where Delaney said the FAI solicitor was “a legal adviser” on “company formation for property transactions”.
Walsh is also described as a “legal adviser” on a series of emails relating to family law matters where Heffernan is also included as a “financial adviser”.
Walshe is also said to have assisted Delaney in completing his Chartered Accountants Ireland (CAI) registration after it emerged he was not entitled to call himself a chartered accountant.
Walshe is said by Delaney to have given legal advice on his acquisition of an €868,000 five-bedroom house in Aughrim, Co Wicklow, in 2019. Delaney is currently renting the property out for €3,000 a month. Another group of emails list Walshe as a legal adviser on “family law/defamation proceedings/ settlement agreements”.
Delaney, who now runs a consultancy business, Delay Ltd, in London, is also trying to shield a number of emails with Finance One, a financial advisory firm that advised on “re-finance of personal business”, a property purchase and a company called Spinelcrest.
The privilege claim is also made in relation to a series of emails Delaney sent to his sister and to former fiancee English relating to family law, “property advice” and “business matters”.
Delaney is claiming privilege over documents relating to legal advice he received from A & L Goodbody about the Moran Inquiry into the Olympic Council of Ireland Rio ticketing scandal and subsequent defamation cases.
The ODCE is investigating why A&L were instructed to pay some of Delaney’s defamation settlements to Pillarview.
Delaney has also claimed privilege over correspondence with Breen, the FAI’s former finance director, Declan Conroy, a consultant who has worked on a number of the FAI’s tournament bids, and Peter Sherrard, the FAI’s former PR director, who is now chief executive of the Olympic Federation of Ireland.
A large number of emails on various subjects were copied to Denise Cassidy, Delaney’s former PA.
In court, the ODCE questioned how privilege can be maintained by Delaney if the correspondence was sent to non-lawyers. It also submitted that litigation privilege cannot apply if the legal cases the emails relate to have concluded.
Delaney insists that litigation in 78 cases is “extant” as there are ongoing disputes between him and the lawyers involved about “who is the client, who is entitled to receive compensation and who is responsible for the fees”.
There are also four emails marked as “Asian fund” that Delaney says relate to family law.
The ODCE has said it requires access to Delaney’s emails to assist its criminal investigation into the FAI and Delaney that began in March 2019 after complaints were made to the corporate watchdog.
In April 2019, Deloitte, the FAI’s then auditors, made a statutory filing reporting the FAI for failing to keep proper books of accounts. The FAI has set aside €3.5m to pay fines and unpaid taxes from the Delaney era.
A Sport Ireland audit of the FAI found the association made payments of almost €1m to cover Delaney’s personal expenses, including his 50th birthday party and rent, over his last five years there.
While Delaney made several repayments, Kosi, the accountants hired by Sport Ireland, calculated that the “excess benefit” he enjoyed amounted to €724,629.42.
The ODCE has told the court Delaney cannot claim litigation privilege over records relating to court cases or legal actions if those cases, some of which stretch back to 2011, have concluded.
However, Delaney has complained that A&L Goodbody, the FAI’s former solicitors, and Paddy Goodwin, a solicitor who acted for both Delaney and the FAI, have refused him access to case files and he has been unable to compile an “exhaustive list” of his litigation at the FAI.
In his most recent affidavit, signed on April 8 at the offices of Walker Law in Bracknell, England, Delaney listed 78 legal actions he believed the 1,123 FAI emails the ODCE is seeking to access relate to.
Delaney said there were “ongoing disputes” between him and his former solicitors about who is the client in the cases and who is responsible for the fees.
Although he “does not know the precise point at which the litigation lies”, he believes each one of the cases is “extant”.
If that was the case, then litigation privilege would still apply to the emails.
A&L Goodbody cases
1. John Delaney v Goal.com, 2016/2017
2. John Delaney v Journal.com, 2016/2017
3. John Delaney and Olympic Council of Ireland (OCI) 2016 – Correspondence with Arthur Cox for OCI
4. John Delaney and the OCI advices
5. John Delaney & Moran Inquiry. Advices and representation.
6. John Delaney and the ODCE. Advices and representation
7. John Delaney v Examiner newspaper, 2016/2017
8. John Delaney v Independent Newspapers, 2016/2017
9. John Delaney v Daily Mail, 2016/2017
10. John Delaney v Maximum Media t/a Sports Joe, 2016/17
11. John Delaney/FAI and Limerick FC
12. John Delaney and Limerick Post
15. John Delaney and FAI in dispute with RTÉ and Prime Time, 2013
17. Payment by A&L Goodbody, solicitors acting for John Delaney to Pillarview
18. John Delaney/FAI and Independent Newspapers and Sunday Independent, 2013
19. John Delaney/FAI in dispute with Daily Mail and Irish Times, 2014
20. John Delaney and the Irish Times, 2011
21. John Delaney and FAI in dispute with RTÉ and Morning Ireland
22. John Delaney/FAI and Independent Newspapers and Sunday Independent, 2015
23. John Delaney and La Nacion newspaper, Argentina/Brazil
24. John Delaney and Facebook, 2015
25. John Delaney and Journal.ie, 2016
26. John Delaney and YBIG (You Boys In Green, a supporters’ club), 2014
28. JMPG (sic) Partnership and JMPH. Advices
29. John Delaney and Waterford Local Radio (WLR), 2016
30. The Sun newspaper
Patrick Goodwin and Co cases
2. Emer Delaney v John Delaney. Family Law. The Circuit Court and the High Court, 2014
3. Communications with and advices to John Delaney regarding fund
4. Communications with and advices to John Delaney regarding accountant to Delaney
5. Communications with and advices to John Delaney regarding JMPH
6. Regarding Spinelcrest
7. Regarding Ronstrap
8. Regarding Pillarview
9. Regarding Magelle
10. Regarding Drogheda United FC
11. Drafted various wills for John Delaney and estate management
12. DPP v John Delaney
13. Property transaction 2014. Pairc na Dun, Tralee
14. Property transaction 2014. Mounthawk, Caherslee, Tralee
15. Property transaction, Faugheen, Tipperary
16. Property transaction, 2018/2019, Crafield, Aughrim, Co Wicklow
17. Property transactions, Castle Heights, Clonmel, Co Tipperary
18. Property transaction, Carrickbeg, Co Tipperary
19. Advices in relation to Susan Keegan
20. Communications with Emma English
21. John Delaney v Sunday Independent and Independent Newspapers, 2012
23. John Delaney and the Evening Herald, 2012
24. John Delaney v The Sunday Times, 2013
25. John Delaney v The Sunday Times, 2016
26. John Delaney v Gerard Moran, Gerfurn
28. John Delaney v Independent Newspapers, 2016
29. John Delaney v Irish Daily Star, 2011
30. John Delaney v Sports News Ireland, 2011
31. Advices and communications to John Delaney regarding his public statements
32. John Delaney v Irish Daily Star, 2014
33. John Delaney v Irish Daily Mail, 2014
34. FAI v Irish Daily Mail 2011 and insofar as it affected Delaney
35. FAI v Irish Daily Mail 2012 and insofar as it affected Delaney
36. John Delaney v Irish Daily Mail, 2012
37. John Delaney v Irish Daily Mail, 2013
38. John Delaney v Journal.ie, 2016
39. John Delaney v Neil Harbison and Martin Keoghan, 2013
40. FAI v Irish Sun 2016 and insofar as it affected Delaney
41. John Delaney v Irish Times, 2014
42. John Delaney v Irish Mirror, 2012
43. John Delaney v Sunday Life, 2016
44. John Delaney v Sunday Times, 2013
45. John Delaney v McKenna 2013 and 2014
46. Emer Delaney v John Delaney – Family law. Circuit and High Court, 2014
Sheridan Quinn Solicitors
Emer Delaney v John Delaney – Family Law. Circuit and High Court, 2014
Kieran T Flynn Solicitors
Property transactions in Tipperary