O’Brien accuses corporate watchdog of leaking details against him

Businessman says he will hold corporate director ‘personally responsible’ for leaks

Denis O’Brien, centre: he said he had been subjected to “extraordinary” and intensifying levels of media coverage that suggested wrongdoing on his part. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

Denis O’Brien, centre: he said he had been subjected to “extraordinary” and intensifying levels of media coverage that suggested wrongdoing on his part. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

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Businessmen Denis O’Brien has accused the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement (ODCE) of leaking damaging details about him from court papers seeking to appoint inspectors to Independent News & Media (INM).

Mr O’Brien, INM’s largest shareholder, warned that he would hold ODCE director Ian Drennan “fully and personally responsible” for leaking information that was damaging to his reputation from an affidavit he filed in the High Court seeking to appoint the inspectors to investigate matters at the company.

The businessman sent a letter to the corporate watchdog after details from an affidavit leaked to the media said that an Isle of Man company beneficially owned by Mr O’Brien paid for the interrogation of data allegedly taken from INM during a suspected data breach from October 2014.

In his April 6th letter to Mr Drennan, Mr O’Brien said he had been subjected to “extraordinary” and intensifying levels of media coverage that suggested wrongdoing on his part. He accused Mr Drennan or his office of facilitating media access to his affidavit in full knowledge of the frenzy that would occur.

The letter was read out in court by the director’s counsel, Neil Steen SC.

Criticised

Mr O’Brien referred in his letter to the collapse of the trial of former Anglo Irish Bank chairman Seán FitzPatrick last year, during which the ODCE’s handling of the documents in the case was severely criticised.

Mr O’Brien said that in the aftermath of the collapse of Mr FitzPatrick’s trial he would have expected the ODCE to have restricted access to the affidavit so it could be considered by the court at the appropriate time. He concluded his letter saying he intended to hold the director “fully and personally responsible” for the media leaks, accusing the corporate director of “breaches of duty”.

Mr Steen read out a replying letter sent by the ODCE to Mr O’Brien on April 13th denying that the ODCE had leaked any information about him.

‘Extraordinary’

He told the court the ODCE had conducted a year-long investigation into INM and that nothing had been leaked until the documents had been served on INM last month.

Mr Justice Peter Kelly said Mr Drennan’s application had generated an “extraordinary” amount of publicity and that publicity had gone on “unremittingly” for the last week to 10 days.

Media that published extracts from the affidavit before it was opened in court had engaged in “a dangerous exercise” negotiating between “the Scylla of contempt of court and the Charybdis of defamation,” he said.

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