Denis O’Brien urges judge to order Red Flag to name client
Dossier includes documents referring to ‘Ireland’s Berlusconi’
Denis O’Brien claims the dossier was supplied to him on a USB stick anonymously last October after he hired a private investigator to look into his belief of a conspiracy to damage him personally and professionally. Photograph: Dara Mac Donaill
An assertion that businessman Denis O’Brien’s use of his media and business interests means he has “become Ireland’s Berlusconi” is among several defamatory references to him in a dossier comissioned from consultancy firm Red Flag, the High Court heard.
Mr O’Brien wants a court order compelling Red Flag to identify the client the dossier was prepared for. Red Flag opposes identification of the client and denies any involvement in defamation or conspiracy or that it has published the dossier.
The court has heard the dossier mainly comprises media articles but also includes documents entitled “Who is Denis O’Brien?” and “The Moriarty Tribunal Explainer”.
Red Flag has also described as “entirely speculative” claims by Mr O’Brien against Gavin O’Reilly, a non-executive director, including that Mr O’Reilly was an “active player and/or influence” in creating the dossier.
It has further claimed a “lack of candour” by Mr O’Brien about how he learned of the firm’s alleged dissemination of the dossier which Mr O’Brien believes is part of a campaign “masterminded” by the unidentified client to damage him.
Mr O’Brien denies a lack of candour but accepts a sworn statement by him last October may have incorrectly conveyed that he learned from an investigation of Red Flag’s alleged involvement in dissemination of the dossier, his counsel Michael Cush SC said.
Podcast: Denis O'Brien's case against Red Flag explained
In the same statement, Mr O’Brien said, “in addition, and during the course of this investigation..” he received an envelope anonymously containing a memory stick containing the dossier.
In a later sworn statement, Mr O’Brien said, arising from his belief of a campaign to damage him, he had hired chartered accountant John Whelehan, now working in Kiev, Ukraine, but formerly with accountancy giant PWC, to investigate publicly available material related to him and his businesses to see if the source of the suspected campaign could be identified.
He did not get a report from Mr Whelehan because, in the interim, he received the dossier anonymously on a USB memory stick in an envelope with no postmark which came to his Dublin office last October.
Mr O’Brien says a code to decrypt the stick was written inside the envelope and he learned from the dossier itself of Red Flag’s alleged involvement in the alleged campaign.
If Mr O’Brien’s first sworn statement lead Red Flag to believe it was from the investigation, rather than the dossier itself, that he got his belief about Red Flag’s alleged dissemination of the dossier, that was incorrect and Mr O’Brien apologises for that, Mr Cush said.
Michael Collins SC, for Red Flag, said this matter was “not as simple” as Mr Cush outlined and he would address the claim of lack of candour in continuing arguments before Mr Justice Colm MacEochaidh on Friday.
Beginning his opposing arguments, Mr Collins said it was “genuinely difficult” to know exactly what form of order was being sought.
The sworn statement Mr O’Brien relied upon last October in seeking an “extraordinary” order to seize equipment from his client’s offices, which was refused, referred to a whole series of matters many of which were not now being pursued in the defamation claims.
The defamation claims being pursued relate to references in the dossier concerning Mr O’Brien’s delaings with IBRC and the Sitserv matter, a reference to his having become “Ireland’s Berlusconi” and a claim he uses the “cover of charitable acts” to deflect negative media commentary, counsel said.
Counsel agreed a range of other matters raised by Mr O’Brien were covered in his conspiracy claim.