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Files of key dockland dealings go missing

RECORDS of key Dublin Docklands Development Authority (DDDA) meetings around the time of the disastrous €426.8m Irish Glass Bottle site deal have gone missing, the Irish Independent has learned.

Notes relating to at least four meetings of the authority's influential finance and risk committees, both of which disgraced banker Sean FitzPatrick sat on, cannot be found.

The DDDA also admitted last night that other records failed to properly reflect what transpired at meetings.

Mr FitzPatrick, who was also a member of the DDDA board, is currently abroad and refused to comment when contacted by the Irish Independent on his mobile phone last night.

"I have told you before, I am not going to comment on anything to the press," he said.

The disturbing development emerged after the Irish Independent sought access to the meeting records under Freedom of Information rules.

It was discovered that the minutes of finance committee meetings held before and after the October 2006 Irish Glass Bottle deal could not be found.

The revelation has heaped further pressure on the Government to mount a proper investigation into the running of the docklands body, where a shocking litany of failings could end up costing taxpayers hundreds of millions of euro.

The DDDA invested €109m in the Irish Glass Bottle site, which was bought as part of the Becbay consortium with developers Bernard McNamara and Derek Quinlan.

Finance was provided by Anglo Irish Bank. Two of the bank's directors, Mr FitzPatrick and Lar Bradshaw, also sat on the DDDA board and were directly involved in the authority's decision to take part in the deal. However, the authority's board concluded there was no conflict of interest.

Two months ago, Mr FitzPatrick was arrested and questioned by the Garda Bureau of Fraud Investigation under legislation relating to false accounting. He was later released without charge.

The price paid for the 25-acre site was almost double what the DDDA had told the Department of Finance it would cost. The deal backfired catastrophically following the collapse of the property market.

The value of the DDDA's investment has since been written down to nil and €5m-a-year interest payments on the loans have crippled the authority financially, contributing to the departure of half its workforce.

One of the missing finance committee records relates to a meeting that was recorded as being held in August 2006, two months before the Irish Glass Bottle deal was approved.

Records are also missing for a March 2007 meeting, the first gathering of the finance committee after the deal was done.

Further records relating to finance and risk committee meetings in April 2006 are also missing.

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The DDDA initially insisted it had released records relating to all of the meetings held by these committees.

However, it later admitted to the Irish Independent that some records could not be found.

A spokesman for the DDDA said new chairman Professor Niamh Brennan was aware that proper records of meetings and decisions were not kept previously.

"We understand that under the previous regime, it was not always the policy to ensure proper minutes of discussions and decisions taken at subcommittees of the board," she said.

"As a result, we understand that there are a number of meetings where this is no proper record of what transpired.

"We are also aware that there were instances where minutes were kept but are no longer accessible. Clearly this is an unsatisfactory situation. It is now policy that all meetings are now minuted."

Fine Gael environment spokesman Phil Hogan plans to raise the matter in the Dail next week. "This new information is very disturbing," he told the Irish Independent.

"It is incumbent on the DDDA chairman, Prof Brennan, to investigate all of the decisions made during Mr FitzPatrick's time on the board of the authority."

Mr Hogan said he was confident Prof Brennan could get to the bottom of why certain controversial decisions were made.

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