Tuesday 20 February 2018

Judge orders Anglo-probe team to report back by July

Dearbhail McDonald Legal editor

A SENIOR judge yesterday delivered an ultimatum to those conducting the criminal probe into Anglo Irish Bank.

Refusing a request from the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement for a six-month extension, High Court Judge Mr Justice Peter Kelly gave the authorities until July 28 to complete the inquiry.

The judge also expressed concern about the progress of the joint ODCE/Garda National Bureau of Fraud Investigation inquiry and the failure to mount any prosecutions in other commercial cases -- despite "prima facie evidence" and even admissions of criminal wrongdoing.

He warned that more detailed information into the delays affecting the investigation would be required if any future extensions were sought.

Last night, gardai refused to comment on Judge Kelly's remarks or queries about a number of cases, including rogue solicitors Michael Lynn and Thomas Byrne, that have been under investigation by the fraud squad since October 2007.

Judge Kelly has now been asked six times by the ODCE to extend the joint inquiry into Anglo, despite the fact that it secured "extended power of seizure" warrants from the District Court as far back as February 2009.

Partial files on four of five key issues were sent to the Director of Public Prosecutions last December. One file alone, on the so-called 'Anglo Ten' issue, was 17 volumes in size and contained 8,000 pages.

Fifty witnesses have yet to be questioned in relation to the "warehousing" in Irish Nationwide Building Society of certain loans made to former Anglo directors, including its former chairman Sean FitzPatrick.

The judge acknowledged the "unique" complexity of the Anglo probe, the volume of material obtained and the non-co-operation by some witnesses. But he said that it was "not at all satisfactory" that there was no appreciable result after more than two years.

"An apparent failure to investigate thoroughly -- yet efficiently and expeditiously -- possible criminal wrongdoing in the commercial/corporate sector does nothing to instil confidence in the criminal justice system as applicable to that sector," he said.

The judge added that the collapse of Anglo Irish Bank "has had profound and serious consequences for the economic well-being of this State and its citizens".

In 2007, Judge Kelly and Mr Justice Richard Johnston, the former president of the High Court, directed that papers on struck-off solicitors Michael Lynn and Thomas Byrne be sent to the garda fraud squad -- but there have been no arrests or prosecutions.

Judge Kelly also referred to papers relating to cases involving alleged pyramid schemer Breifne O'Brien which were sent to the Garda National Bureau of Fraud Investigation and to the ODCE.

High Court judge Franke Clarke recently expressed surprise that no charges had been brought against Mr Byrne, Mr Lynn or Mr O'Brien, several years after their cases were referred to the authorities by the courts.

Irish Independent

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