High Court extends Anglo inquiry
The High Court has extended for another year the investigation by the Director of Corporate Enforcement into the 2008 collapse of the former Anglo Irish Bank. Criminal trials arising from the inquiry to date now appear unlikely to open until late this year at the earliest.
The Director had sought a three year extension of orders allowing retention of documents seized from the bank for the investigation, which began four years ago. The extension was sought to complete the probe and facilitate what the Director of Public Prosecutions anticipates will be lengthy criminal trials arising from some of the matters being investigated.
The court also heard the ODCE believed the investigations have disclosed matters which will warrant other decisions by the DPP.
Mr Justice Peter Kelly today said he would extend the orders only for one year to January 17th 2014 as he was anxious a three year extension would not give rise to any reduction in the "intensity" of the inquiry. He was not suggesting such a reduction in intensity would happen, he stressed.
The judge noted investigations had concluded into two of five issues being investigated. If the investigations had concluded into all five issues and decisions had been taken whether to prosecute or not regarding all five, he would have granted the three year extension as a lengthy trial process would be anticipated, he said.
The judge was told the DPP has brought charges against former Anglo executives in relation to the two matters in relation to which investigations have concluded.
Former Anglo xhairman Seán Fitzpatrick and two former executives - Pat Whelan and Willie McAteer - have been charged arising from the investigation into possible breaches of Section 60 of the Companies Act prohibiting a financial institution advancing loans to buy its own shares.
They are accused of unlawfully helping to back investors – including members of Seán Quinn’s family – to buy Anglo shares in 2008.
A book of evidence has been served in that case but a process of what was decsribed as "mammoth" disclosure to the defendants is underway and it is expected it will be some time before a trial date is set. That matter will be mentioned before Dublin Circuit Criminal Court next week when the DPP hopes a judge will be assigned to specially manage the case.
Una Ní Raifeartaigh SC, for the DPP, said the normal waiting period for a trial in the DCCC is one year but that might be reduced if the case was managed by a designated judge. The normal situation was the defence would seek a trial date after examining disclosed documents but the DPP would not be inactive in that regard, she said.
Arising from the investigation into a second issue - the alleged "warehousing" of loans to Anglo directors in the Irish Nationwide Building Society - Mr Fitzpatrick was charged last month with failing to disclose an arrangement between Anglo and INBS under which the building society loaned him money between 2002 and 2007.
He was also charged with allegedly deceiving the failed bank’s auditors in relation to his personal loans over that same period. A book of evidence in those proceedings may be served in March, Ms Ní Raifeartaigh indicated.
The investigation into the three other issues is continuing although the ODCE considers it is practically complete in all but one of those areas.
The Garda Bureau of Fraud Investigation has given the DPP its investigation files on a third issue, "back to back deposit arrangements" between Anglo and Irish Life & Permanent Group at the end of Anglo's financial year to end September 2008. The DPP has sought additional evidence which is currently being obtained by the bureau the court heard.
The fourth issue relates to a loan to a former Anglo director in late September 2008 in circumstances which may breach Section 297 of the Companies Act. The ODCE sent two investigation files on that to the DPP in December 2010 and December 2011 and the DPP, after July 2012, asked that additional investigative work be carried out on two discrete aspects of that and that work is continuing.
The fifth issue relates to communication of possibly false or misleading information in certain Anglo annual interim financial reports in 2008 which may constitute breaches of the EU Transparency Directive Regulations. The view is taken that investigation cannot complete until all other issues have been finalised.