Monday 19 February 2018

O'Brien 'not a bit concerned' over tribunal report going to the DPP

Michael Brennan Deputy Political Editor

BILLIONAIRE businessman Denis O'Brien said yesterday he is "not in the least bit concerned" about the Government's decision to refer the Moriarty Tribunal report to the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP).

The tribunal found that Mr O'Brien made payments to former communications minister Michael Lowry, who it said had "influenced" and "delivered" the victory for Mr O'Brien's Esat Digifone consortium in the second mobile phone licence competition.

But Mr O'Brien, whose wealth is valued at $4.2bn (€2.9bn) by 'Forbes' magazine, rejected the tribunal's findings again yesterday. He said he was "not in the least bit concerned" about its report being sent to the DPP.

"We'd welcome that. At the end of the day, the DPP will come and look at this and then make their own decision," he said.

The tribunal found that an associate of Mr O'Brien made a lodgement of IR£147,000 into Mr Lowry's offshore account in the Isle of Man in 1996 shortly after the mobile phone licence was awarded to Esat Digifone.

Although Mr Lowry returned the money the following year when the McCracken Tribunal into payments for politicians was established, the tribunal said it represented a payment by Mr O'Brien to Mr Lowry.

Mr O'Brien told RTE yesterday that the money had been given by him to his business associate David Austin to buy a house for his parents in Spain. He said he had bought this house for IR£147,000.

"I sold it four or five years ago for €300,000. That's where that ended. If you're going to give money to somebody, the money has to go to them," he said.

The tribunal also investigated the purchase of a house in Mansfield, England, in the name of Mr Lowry for stg£250,000 (€285,000) in 1999.

Around stg£225,000 (€256,000) of this was funded from a bank account held by Mr O'Brien in London.

The tribunal found that this money represented the proceeds of a payment made by Mr O'Brien to Mr Lowry through an associate.

Mr O'Brien said Mr Lowry only owned 10pc of the property he had paid for, with his associate Aidan Phelan owning the remaining 90pc.


He denied that Mr Lowry would have been allowed to keep 100pc of the property if the Moriarty Tribunal had not started investigating it.

"That is totally untrue because if you look at what happened, he paid for 10pc of the deal and he got 10pc of the deal," he said.

The report also contains details of how Mr Lowry actually met Mr O'Brien. Their first face-to-face meeting was arranged by the late Fine Gael TD Jim Mitchell.

Another meeting was facilitated by Padraig O hUiginn, the former secretary general of the Department of the Taoiseach.

He had been invited by Mr O'Brien to join the Esat Digifone board as part of the preparations for the mobile phone licence bid.

Mr O hUiginn had tickets for the 1995 All Ireland football final between Dublin and Tyrone because he was chairman of Bord Failte -- which is now Failte Ireland.

He invited Mr O'Brien to accompany him and it was there that Mr O'Brien met Mr Lowry and invited him to meet him again after the match.

Irish Independent

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