Monday 18 December 2017

O'Brien: findings are flawed and full of hearsay

Siobhan Creaton

DENIS O'Brien yesterday angrily dismissed the Moriarty report as "flawed" and "full of hearsay".

The business tycoon insisted he never gave money to Michael Lowry, who awarded his company the mobile phone licence in 1995.

"Not a red cent passed to Michael Lowry," he told the Irish Independent yesterday, as he considered his options following publication of the damning report.

"It is not in my nature to allow somebody to besmirch my reputation without fighting back," he said.

"From tonight onwards I will be taking on Mr Justice Moriarty."

Mr O'Brien, who wasn't notified ahead of the report's publication, is monitoring its impact on his business empire that spans from Ireland to the Caribbean to the South Pacific where his Digicel mobile phone company has more than 10 million customers.

He is also consulting with his lawyers to review the options available to him to challenge the report's findings.

"I will have to consider my options and then I will decide in the next number of days."

The telecoms tycoon is angry that Moriarty rejected evidence he gave, including details of his bank accounts, in compiling the report.

Taking issue with a number of the key findings that link him to payments to Mr Lowry while he was in office, Mr O'Brien said the minister did not favour his Esat Digifone consortium for the licence.

"We favoured ourselves because we had the ability to win the licence and 17 civil servants said this was the best licence on the day to win. We were ahead at every stage. It is not as if we were ranked fourth and we were bumped up to be number one or second," he said.

"People said 'you got the benefit of the licence and made loads of money', but we invested the guts of €1bn into a mobile communications network in Ireland. It was not easy. Where was the favouritism in that?" he asked.

He said the section of the report relating to Mr O'Brien's meeting with Mr Lowry in a pub while the applications for the licence were being assessed was wrong.

"They wrote this -- that I met Michael Lowry in a pub and that he gave me some information. I didn't need any information or want information because what we put into our bid box was everything that was needed to win this licence," he said.

"It is so ridiculous to say I met him in a pub. If you want to have a quiet word with somebody or a political person you don't go into a pub on All-Ireland night."

Mr O'Brien says he is still distilling the key points of the report.

What has materialised, in his view, is a "poorly constructed report."

It is "fiction" he says.

"It is a Freddie Forsyth book that has cost between €300m and €400m."


Irish Independent

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