Solicitor denies public outrage influenced Seán FitzPatrick case

No suggestion of political influence in Anglo ex-chairman’s case, says legal adviser

Kevin O’Connell, who was a legal adviser with the Office of Director of Corporate Enforcement in 2009. Photograph: Collins Courts.

Kevin O’Connell, who was a legal adviser with the Office of Director of Corporate Enforcement in 2009. Photograph: Collins Courts.

 

A solicitor who played a “very significant role” in the investigation of allegations against former Anglo Irish Bank chairman Seán FitzPatrick has denied suggestions that political or public outrage ever influenced the case.

Mr FitzPatrick (68) of Whitshed Road, Greystones, Co Wicklow, is accused of misleading auditors about multimillion-euro loans between 2002 and 2007.

He has pleaded not guilty to to 27 offences under the 1990 Companies Act. These include 22 charges of making a misleading, false or deceptive statement to auditors and five charges of furnishing false information in the years 2002 to 2007.

Kevin O’Connell was a legal adviser with the Office of Director of Corporate Enforcement in 2009. He told Bernard Condon SC, defending, that he had a “very significant involvement” in the investigation.

He agreed there was significant public interest in the case and that this would have found its way into the political sphere.

Mr Condon told the court that in February 2009 Paul Appleby, the director of corporate enforcement, sent details of the investigation to the secretaries general of the Department of Finance and the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment.

‘Strictly confidential’

These emails were labelled “secret” and “strictly confidential” and Mr O’Connell said this was to ensure that the information was not treated lightly.

“There was very active political interest in this investigation. This could not have passed you by. This could not have been without impact,” counsel submitted.

Mr O’Connell said that a theoretical possibility of political influence didn’t chime with his experience.

“I at no time experienced anything that suggested there was political pressure being inappropriately exerted on any of us, no sense that my colleagues were under pressure or that any of us felt there was anything lacking in our own powers that would have made us succumb to such pressure” he said.

Counsel put it to Mr O’Connell that there was a duty in “a case like this, which excites public and media attention” to ensure it was not influenced by outside forces.

Mr O’Connell said he understood there could be concern that an investigation conducted in “the teeth of gale-force public outrage” could be diverted away from cold, calculated lines of investigation and into unfairness.

But he said he did not think this was a hazard which he saw occurring in this investigation.

The trial continues on Friday.