Corporate watchdog opposes extra time for ex-FAI boss John Delaney to examine files

Court has been asked to determine whether some files are covered by legal privilege

John Delaney, a notice party to the action, wants more time to examine the material, which includes his emails, to set out those which he says attract legal professional privilege. Photograph: Laura Hutton/The Irish Times

John Delaney, a notice party to the action, wants more time to examine the material, which includes his emails, to set out those which he says attract legal professional privilege. Photograph: Laura Hutton/The Irish Times

 

The Director of Corporate Enforcement is opposed to ex-FAI boss John Delaney getting more time to examine files seized by the corporate watchdog as part of its criminal investigation into the association.

The High Court has been asked, in an application where the FAI is the respondent, to make a determination whether some files are covered by legal privilege and cannot be used by the ODCE as part of its probe.

UK-based Mr Delaney, a notice party to the action, wants more time to examine the material, which includes his emails, to set out those which he says attract legal professional privilege.

The ODCE wants its application, initiated last February, heard in December.

When the matter returned before Ms Justice Leonie Reynolds on Friday, she expressed strong displeasure at the pace of the inspection process and was critical of “tit-for-tat tactics” by the ODCE and Mr Delaney regarding the inspection process.

She said Mr Delaney had given assurances early on in the process about taking steps to make sure the inspection would be completed within an agreed time period but that had not been done.

The court was told Mr Delaney, represented by Paul McGarry SC, with Jack Tchrakian BL, had been making progress with inspection of a large number of documents.

Since the inspection progress began in July problems had arisen which made it difficult to assess how many documents are private to Mr Delaney or covered by legal privilege, Aidan Eames, solicitor for Mr Delaney, said in an affidavit.

Mr Delaney wants the matter dealt with as soon as possible in order to “move on with his life as soon as he can.”

Mr Eames said his firm has put massive effort into the inspection process on behalf of Mr Delaney.

However, co-operation and expedition “cannot be pursued at the price of compromising his client’s rights”, he said.

Mr Eames said Mr Delaney is operating “on a shoestring” relative to the “vast resources” the ODCE and FAI can devote to the inspection process.

Kerida Naidoo SC, with Elva Duffy BL, for the ODCE, said it was opposed to further time being granted to Mr Delaney to complete the inspection.

It had been suggested Mr Delaney wanted to search the documentation using a new key search word, counsel said. There was “no substance” to any of the issues raised by Mr Delaney, he added.

It was expected a lawyer for the FAI will have reviewed the documentation in some 35 working days, he said.

The ODCE was concerned, at the current pace of Mr Delaney’s review, it will take several more months to complete.

Mr Delaney had asserted more than 3,000 of the files he has reviewed are legally privileged, the court was told. The ODCE wants appointment of an independent person to consider that material, who would then report to the court.

The ODCE was concerned, given that Mr Delaney has yet to review thousands more documents, its investigation could be compromised.

Mr Delaney’s lawyers rejected the ODCE’s criticisms, and denied he is trying to delay the process.

Adjourning the case, Ms Justice Reynolds said she wanted to know if Mr Delaney’s lawyers would take up an offer from the ODCE for assistance to speed up the process. If that offer was not being taken up, she wanted to know why not.

The parties should discuss certain issues between them in order to make better use of court time, she added.

The matter was adjourned for two weeks.