An inquiry is needed into why a regime of impunity still exists in this state
Anglo tapes showed minds untroubled by the slightest hint of criminal consequences
Because all of this was investigated by the beef tribunal, it is one of the very rare cases where we know what happened in the subsequent criminal investigation. The Department of Agriculture concluded: “It is clear that a substantial fraud was committed in this case.” Yet it took an astonishing 13 months after it was discovered for the fraud to be referred to the Garda. It then took a month for a detective to be assigned to the case, and another month before the detective had a brief meeting with the department. It took yet another month for the detective to meet Customs; and a staggering 11 months for the detective to get a copy of the report.
Not surprisingly, after this cursory investigation, the Director of Public Prosecutions concluded: “While the operation generally shows a pattern of deception and, almost certainly, of fraud, no person can be shown to be a participant in it with a specific provable criminal intent. Accordingly, no prosecution is warranted by the available evidence.” The DPP also criticised the tardiness of the criminal investigation: “Whatever hope there might have been of bringing home criminal responsibility for such activities was effectively eliminated by the inordinate delay.”
This inability to prosecute fraud ought to have set the alarms ringing. But nothing much changed and, even after the consequences of impunity have been brought home in the worst possible way, the current situation is little different. Matthew Elderfield was quite forthright in saying that the system consisting of his office, the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement and the Garda is inadequate in relation to “being able to ensure individual accountability” for financial offences. “White-collar crime seems to be an area in which the system is just not operating well in terms of being able to tackle that.” He called for “a stock-take, a report by the Law Reform Commission, a wise person’s report or something like that”.
Actually what’s needed is a root-and-branch inquiry, preferably by a high-ranking international team, of the law, the Garda and the DPP’s office – the whole apparatus of justice – to answer two questions: why does impunity rule, and how are we going to end its reign?