Friday 24 November 2017

Cowen wants Anglo probe to be concluded 'as quickly as possible'

Colin Gleeson and Barry Duggan

TAOISEACH Brian Cowen has said he wants the massive investigation into financial irregularities at Anglo Irish Bank to be completed "as quickly as possible" as it emerged that the gardai expect key developments before the end of the year.

He was speaking to reporters in Co Limerick last night after comments made by Justice Minister Dermot Ahern earlier in the day, where he referred to the case as "the biggest and the most complex investigation in the history of the State".

The Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement and the gardai have been investigating events leading up to the nationalisation of the bank in early 2009.

This includes whether short-term deposits were used to mask large customer withdrawals and whether loans were issued to prop up the bank's shares.

Mr Cowen said "everyone" wants to see the investigation completed "effectively and efficiently" and "as quickly as possible" so the DPP can proceed on the basis of "evidence that is being collated".

"It is the biggest investigation that has ever been undertaken as I understand it. It involves fraud investigation, the Garda Siochana and the Office of Corporate Enforcement.

"I think it's important that we bring all of that to a conclusion as quickly as possible, but this is not a matter -- nor should it be a matter -- in which there is political input.

"All inquiries must be followed in whatever direction they lead, in terms of pursuing the evidence and ensuring the investigation is conducted absolutely comprehensively and by the people who have the statutory authority in our country to do so.


"The DPP will act on whatever evidence is put before him in terms of offences or charges to be brought -- and it is in the public interest that that be the case."

He said Garda Commissioner Fachtna Murphy is in "constant touch" with the people who are heading up the investigation. "They have all the resources they require," he said.

"It's a priority matter for the gardai but it is a complex issue. That is not in any way to suggest that one is saying these things take a long time. It requires the analysis of a huge number of records -- more than 100,000 documents -- including email, telephone and bank records.

"Witness statements will be lengthy but search warrants and court orders have been executed, persons have been arrested, inquiries are taking place outside the State -- so it's a very comprehensive investigation," he added.

Commissioner Murphy meanwhile said he expects some key developments in the investigation before the end of the year.

He also described the case as "complex" but said he hoped decisions would be made shortly on whether someone should or should not be prosecuted.


He added that complaints in relation to Anglo Irish Bank had been made to gardai from February 2009 to August of this year, and 400 statements had been taken so far -- some as long as 150 pages.

There are 40 investigators involved in the case and interviews with suspects have taken place and are continuing, he said. The Government came under fire earlier this week for the length of time the investigation was taking. Fine Gael's Leo Varadkar said the Taoiseach should instruct the gardai to treat bankers like IRA subversives, and have them arrested.

Commissioner Murphy said the investigation was progressing "without any distraction".

"I would expect a decision by the end of the year," he added.

So far, only two former Anglo directors, Sean FitzPatrick and former finance and chief risk officer Willie McAteer, have been arrested and then released as part of the probe. A third official, former chief executive David Drumm, fled to the United States and declared bankruptcy in Boston.

Irish Independent

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