A solicitor whose 1995 advertisement in The Irish Times seeking information on planning corruption sparked the Flood/Mahon tribunal, has placed another advert, this time offering €250,000 for evidence of mis-selling by banks.
Kevin Neary, of Newry-based firm Donnelly, Neary & Donnelly, confirmed he had been retained by a "private individual" in the Republic who is funding the reward, which is offered in an advert in today's edition of The Irish Times.
The offer, with the heading “€250,000 Reward Fund”, calls for any information relating to “the mis-selling of investment products by financial institutions in Ireland to the general public”.
The advert says Mr Neary's client wants to bring evidence of mis-selling to the attention of the Central Bank, the regulator of the financial sector.
Specifically, Mr Neary’s client seeks information of breaches such as the failure to disclose to customers the commissions and charges on investment products, or the sale of high-risk products to layman investors who may not have understood the risks.
It also seeks information from the staff of financial institutions who were “encouraged or trained to ignore good industry practice”. The ad promises respondents their information “will be released to appropriate authorities only with their written permission”.
“The reward fund will be paid out on prosecution and conviction amongst those providing the information,” the advert says.
Speaking last night, Mr Neary said his client, who he confirmed is active in business, is not interested in revealing “his” identity because it would personalise and distract from the issue of mis-selling.
Mr Neary acknowledged that €250,000 is an enormous sum to be put up by a private individual as a public reward, and that only a handful of Irish citizens could spare that sort of cash. He said he had been approached by the man.
“He is putting his money where his mouth is. He has particular concerns, a particular interest in investment products. We want to throw the net wide and approach it from a general point of view looking for evidence,” said Mr Neary.
The next steps for his client will depend upon what evidence, if any, is unearthed by the public call for information, he said.
“It may be that any information is brought to the regulator; that may be the conduit. It will be decided along with the people that provide the evidence. The purpose is to expose wrongdoing.”
The advert placed in this newspaper almost 23 years ago by Mr Neary unearthed allegations that ultimately led to the long-running tribunal that was focused on corruption in the planning process.
Mr Neary was asked to place the 1995 advert offering a reward of IR£10,000 (€12,700) by barristers and environmentalists Colm Mac Eochaidh, now a judge at the General Court of the European Union, and Michael Smith, who now publishes Village magazine.
Their advert, with the heading “£10,000 Reward Fund”, sought “information leading to the conviction or indictment of a person or persons for offences relating to land rezoning in the Republic of Ireland”.
Among the 52 respondents to the call was retired engineer James Gogarty, who approached Mr Neary with allegations that former government minister Ray Burke had been paid £30,000 to get lands rezoned in Dublin.
This allegation and others subsequently made led to the establishment of the Flood planning corruption tribunal in 1997.