Anglo shredder to ‘have his say’ on trial before committee

Oireachtas panel agrees to invite former ODCE legal adviser Kevin O’Connell to testify

Kevin O’Connell, a legal adviser with the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement  who dealt with witnesses from EY, Anglo’s auditors from 2002 to 2008. File photograph: Collins Courts

Kevin O’Connell, a legal adviser with the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement who dealt with witnesses from EY, Anglo’s auditors from 2002 to 2008. File photograph: Collins Courts

 

The man whose shredding of papers helped collapse the trial of former Anglo Irish Bank chairman Sean FitzPatrick will be called to a public hearing, an Oireachtas committee has agreed.

Fianna Fáil TD Mary Butler, the chairwoman of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Business, Enterprise and Innovation, said the committee had unanimously agreed this week to invite Kevin O’Connell, the former legal adviser to the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement (ODCE), to “come in and have his say”.

Before an appearance by ODCE director Ian Drennan on Tuesday, the committee met privately for two hours when there was a “robust exchange” about receipt of a 450-report from Mr Drennan setting out the the office’s explanation of how the FitzPatrick criminal trial collapsed in 2017.

“We are anxious both to get Mr Drennan’s report and to hear from Mr O’Connell. We want to delve into this as much as we can,” said Ms Butler.

Mr FitzPatrick was accused of furnishing false information to the bank’s auditors Ernst & Young, now EY, over his loans at the bank. He denied the charges.

His first trial collapsed in 2015 after Mr O’Connell admitted making “a calamitous error” by shredding a small number of documents in “a panic”.

Acquittal

The judge directed an acquittal in the retrial in 2017 over the ODCE’s mishandling of the investigation.

Ms Butler said the committee’s private meeting before Mr Drennan’s appearance lasted as long as it did because TDs and Senators were concerned his report would be redacted due to his insistence it be the subject of legal privilege, protecting the ODCE from any potential litigation.

There was a heated discussion during the private session about the status of the report were it to be circulated to committee members as opposed to going through the clerk of the committee.

Ms Butler expects the report to be sent to the committee’s clerk on Monday. The report would have to be forwarded to the Office of the Parliamentary Legal Adviser to be subjected to legal privilege, she said.

“The committee feels very strongly that it is imperative that we should have this document,” she said.

She hopes the committee will have the report and that it will be made public “as soon as possible”.

“This will not be long-fingered,” she said.

Next steps

The committee will meet on Tuesday to discuss the next steps.

Mr O’Connell wrote privately to the committee on February 12th last criticising it for not accepting Mr Drennan’s report.

He complained he had become “the personification” of all that went wrong at the FitzPatrick trial and this was “excessive”.

He suggested he was not wholly to blame for the trial’s collapse and had new information.

The committee replied on Wednesday telling him that it would accept Mr Drennan’s report and that it would contact him when it reviewed it.

Mr Drennan told the committee on Tuesday that the factors leading to the collapse of the FitzPatrick trial “extended well beyond” the ODCE’s failures. He said the investigation came at a “considerable human cost”.

“That line stuck with a lot of people,” said Ms Butler of the concern of committee members.