Cosgrave challenges corruption charges

 

THE SUPREME COURT has begun hearing an appeal by former Fine Gael TD Liam Cosgrave aimed at halting his criminal trial in connection with alleged corrupt payments concerning land rezonings in Co Dublin.

Mr Cosgrave and businessman James Kennedy are separately seeking orders to stop their trials over alleged corrupt payments in relation to rezoning of lands in Carrickmines owned by Jackson Way Properties in 1992 and the successful rezoning of part of these lands in 1997.

Mr Cosgrave, Merrion Park, Blackrock, Co Dublin, has denied charges of receiving sums in June 1992; on December 23rd, 1997, at Buswells Hotel, Dublin; and on October 30th, 1997, at the Davenport Hotel in Dublin.

Mr Kennedy, Cormorant Wharf, Queensway Quay, Gibraltar, has also denied 16 charges of making corrupt payments to politicians relating to rezoning motions voted on by Dublin County Council and Dún Laoghaire/Rathdown concerning land in Carrickmines.

In the High Court last July, Mr Justice John Hedigan rejected both men’s judicial-review applications, and their appeals against that decision came before a five-judge Supreme Court yesterday.

However, after it became clear the hearing of the appeals would take longer than the two days allotted, the court said it would hear only Mr Cosgrave’s appeal at this stage and would adjourn Mr Kennedy’s appeal to January.

Presenting Mr Cosgrave’s appeal, Brendan Grehan SC argued his client’s constitutional right to a fair trial was breached by the failure to disclose to him or his lawyers in 2004 that lobbyist Frank Dunlop had provided a written statement to gardaí in relation to the alleged corrupt payments.

Mr Cosgrave was questioned in 2004 about charges of breaches of the Electoral Act, to which he later pleaded guilty, counsel said.

However, while accepting Mr Cosgrave and his advisers were aware in 2004 of allegations of corruption made by Mr Dunlop to the planning tribunal, allegations made to a tribunal could not form the basis of criminal proceedings, counsel said. Mr Cosgrave was entitled to know Mr Dunlop had also provided a statement about the alleged corruption matters outside the “safe haven” of the tribunal.

The prosecution was required to explain and justify why Mr Cosgrave was not prosecuted on the corruption charges for another six years, counsel said.

The delay was exclusively on the side of the DPP and occurred in the DPP’s office, but the DPP had provided no affidavits from anyone in his office to explain it.

Arguments that Mr Dunlop was not available to the DPP as a prosecution witness until after his subsequent prosecution were inadequate and there remained no explanation for the failure to prosecute Mr Dunlop in 2004, counsel added.

When charged with the offences under the Electoral Acts, Mr Cosgrave should have been told there was at least a possibility of a prosecution on corruption charges, Mr Grehan said. The cumulative effect of the failure to tell him, and other failures, amounted to an abuse of process.

Letters to Mr Cosgrave’s lawyers from the Criminal Assets Bureau (Cab) in 2004 and 2005 seeking to interview Mr Cosgrave in relation to the Carrickmines rezonings were not redolent of a criminal investigation where Mr Cosgrave was being targeted, counsel said. Rather, that correspondence was redolent of a civil investigation by Cab seeking Mr Cosgrave’s assistance for Cab’s purpose of bringing proceedings in the High Court to freeze the assets of Jackson Way Properties.

The appeal continues today.