End in sight for Anglo investigation

 

The Director of Corporate Enforcement’s two-year investigation into Anglo Irish Bank is expected to be “substantially complete” by the end of this year, the High Court heard today.

The inquiry, which is being assisted by the Garda Bureau of Fraud Investigation, was today extended by the High Court until April.

Some files will be sent to the DPP within weeks while others will be forwarded in the first quarter of 2011 for the purpose of deciding on prosecutions, Supt Eamonn Nolan told the court today in an affidavit.

Mr Justice Peter Kelly, who was updated today on the progress of the ODCE investigation, said it seemed to him a decision on whether prosecutions will be brought against any Anglo officials could be taken soon after completion of the investigation as the DPP already has lawyers involved with it. He hoped the court could be informed in April about the issue of prosecutions, he added.

The judge was told that the inquiry has been delayed by the fact Anglo does not have the passwords necessary to access some specific password protected or encrypted documents and the failure of certain former staff members to hand these passwords over.

Because some “very detailed password encryption” was involved, working out the passwords was “a very time consuming process” for the investigators, said Paul O’Higgins SC, for the ODCE. The director had sought passwords for 50 of some 800 password protected documents as those 50 appeared most relevant to the inquiry.  Anglo could only supply 20 of the passwords.

The judge was also informed some 125 statements have been taken to date for the investigation and this was also proving very time consuming, with an average three days required for each statement and some taking “a lot longer”. One statement was

120 pages long while statements from an important witness took six months.

A huge volume of electronic and paper documents has also had to be analysed and mutual assistance procures in various jurisdictions have had to be used.

The primary purpose of the processing of millions of individual electronic records is to produce an accessible and traceable record of the files held by, and the interactions between, some 20 senior persons in the bank, Supt Keogh, who has been seconded to the ODCE, said.

Mr Justice Kelly said it was “regrettable” the investigation was taking so long. However, that had to be balanced against the complexity of the inquiry, the volume of material involved and the difficulty trying to extricate electronically stored material without the necessary passwords, he said.

In the circumstances, the judge said he would grant the director’s application to extend the investigation by a further six months when he hoped the court would be told it had completed.

Of five matters being investigated, the court heard the investigations into three of those would be substantially completed by the end of the year while the others were likely to be complete by the end of March 2011.

Four primary events are being investigated for the purpose of establishing if they breached provisions of the Companies Acts and/or common law.

The first is the financial assistance by Anglo in 2008 to a number of persons to enable them to buy its shares.

The second is Anglo’s loans to its former directors and the regular “warehousing” in Irish Nationwide Building Society of some of those loans at the end of Anglo’s financial year.

The third event is the “back-to-back” deposit arrangement between Anglo and Irish Life and Permanent Group for the benefit of Anglo at the end of its financial year in September 2008. The investigation into all three events is expected to be completed by the end of this year.

The fourth event relates to a loan to an Anglo director and that probe is expected to be complete by the end of March next.

The investigation into a fifth issue - whether the four events involve breaches of the EC Transparency Regulations and the European Communities (Admission to Listing and Miscellaneous Provisions) Regulations 2007 - is expected to complete soon after March 2011.

The High Court was previously told it could take up to two years to complete any criminal prosecution arising out of the ODCE investigation, which is one of several into Anglo.