Czech lawyer awaits Lawlor's permission to release files

 

Mr Liam Lawlor's Czech lawyer has said he will not hand over documents to the Flood tribunal unless Mr Lawlor asks him to do so.

Speaking to The Irish Times in his offices in Prague, Dr Richard Kavalek confirmed he was in possession of the company files of The Irish Consortium, a Czech property consultancy in which the Dublin North West TD has a one-third shareholding.

"Of course we have the files . . . but I see no legal reason why I should have to hand over the files without Mr Lawlor's permission," he said yesterday.

Dr Kavalek's statement came as Flood tribunal lawyers secured leave from the High Court to serve a notice of motion seeking the attachment or committal to prison of Mr Lawlor for alleged failure to co-operate with the tribunal.

The tribunal's lawyers are to make the necessary papers available to Mr Lawlor's lawyers by this evening but the matter is unlikely to be completely dealt with until the new year. Mr Lawlor said yesterday he would ask Dr Kavalek to hand over the documents if his lawyers instructed him to do so.

"This is a genuine misunderstanding. I wanted to make the fullest disclosure to the tribunal and to make all anomalies understood," he said, and added that he did not know in advance that he would be questioned about his Czech business interests at the tribunal.

The political pressure on Mr Lawlor increased yesterday when the Progressive Democrats' representative on the Finance and Public Service Committee, Senator John Dardis, called for a meeting of the committee to be held this week to debate whether to remove Mr Lawlor as its vice-chairman.

Fine Gael and Labour favour an emergency meeting to discuss the issue, but the Fianna Fail chairman of the committee, Mr Michael Ahern, insisted the next meeting would not take place until January.

Last night a senior Fianna Fail source indicated that the party would move to replace Mr Lawlor as a member of the committee next month.

The Irish Consortium operated from December 1993 out of an apartment in Prague. The remaining shareholding in the company is divided between two other Irishmen. The business was run by an associate of Mr Lawlor's, Mr Conor McElliot, who has since died. Mr McElliot closed the Prague office after two years in December 1995..

Mr Lawlor said all the important company documents were with Dr Kavalek.

However, Dr Kavalek declined to comment on the quantity or nature of the company files he holds.

?????????However he said he was surprised to hear of inquiries into Mr Lawlor's ???????????his client's business affairs.

"Mr Lawlor might have some strange ideas sometimes but he is an honest man trying to do honest business. I would happily sign a statement saying that," he said. Mr Lawlor has said he was involved in property projects in Prague and in Plzen, 50 miles southwest of Prague with "several Czech municipalities". Dr Kavalek said he was unsure of the last time he had spoken to Mr Lawlor, but said the TD had been a frequent visitor to Prague in the past.

On one visit to Prague Mr Lawlor brought along PR consultant Mr Frank Dunlop and introduced him to the then Czech trade and industry minister, Mr Vladimir Dlouhy.

Mr Dunlop spoke with Mr Dlouhy about setting up a PR company in Prague but nothing came of the visit, according to Mr Lawlor. Mr Lawlor invoiced Mr Dunlop £38,000 for "consultancy fees" related to the trip.

Mr Dlouhy resigned from the Czech government in 1997 after being implicated in a scandal involving corruption in the privatisation of Czech industry and undeclared political donations. Yesterday he said he has no recollection of Mr Dunlop's visit and he had no interests in any property companies. He said he had never done business with Mr Lawlor, whom he described as an acquaintance.