Anglo trial shredder queries former boss on withheld report

Former official tells watchdog he is ‘at a loss’ over why report cannot be submitted to Oireachtas

 Kevin O’Connell: he expressed confusion at how Ian Drennan  could submit a 3,000-page report to the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation on the failed investigation but not a 415-page report to the committee

Kevin O’Connell: he expressed confusion at how Ian Drennan could submit a 3,000-page report to the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation on the failed investigation but not a 415-page report to the committee

 

The corporate watchdog officer who led the botched investigation into former Anglo Irish Bank chairman Seán FitzPatrick has queried why his former boss is unable to submit a report on the episode to an Oireachtas committee.

Kevin O’Connell, the former legal adviser at the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement, wrote to the head of the watchdog this week expressing disappointment at his decision not to provide the committee with a report on why the trial of Mr FitzPatrick over concealed loans collapsed.

It is the latest correspondence from the former investigator who wants to share unaired information about the case to the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Business, Enterprise and Innovation but only after it has read a 415-page report offered by the Director of Corporate Enforcement Ian Drennan on what happened.

Mr Drennan rescinded the offer last week after the committee was unable to provide him with the same legal immunity on publication of the document that would apply to its own members. He fears that it would expose him to “litigation risk and associated financial exposure” from people named in the report.

Mr O’Connell told Mr Drennan that he would have a defence against any claim for damages because reporting to the committee was a lawful discharge of his statutory functions.

“I find it difficult to reconcile how you could, at one and the same time, be satisfied that the disclosure would be a lawful discharge of your statutory functions, and yet apprehensive that taking that lawful step might expose your office to litigation risks, for which it would not be adequately protected,” he said.

Mr O’Connell expressed confusion at how he could submit a 3,000-page report to the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation on the failed investigation but not a 415-page report to the committee.

“I am therefore at a loss to understand why litigation risks should be a hazard under one of those limbs but were apparently not a problem under the other,” he wrote.

Bank’s auditors

The former ODCE legal adviser offered to testify before the committee earlier this year because he felt he had been disproportionately blamed for the failure of the high-profile investigation into Anglo and Mr FitzPatrick’s acquittal on charges of furnishing false information to the bank’s auditors.

Mr FitzPatrick’s first trial collapsed in 2015 after the court heard that Mr O’Connell shredded papers relevant to the case due to enormous stress against a backdrop of significant mental health issues. The judge ended his retrial in 2017 on the basis that the ODCE had coached witnesses and contaminated evidence.

Mr O’Connell asked Mr Drennan whether he disagreed with his view – outlined in an earlier letter he sent in March 2018 – that 13 categories of information aired in court related to personal information about him and fell outside the scope of his “confidential obligations as a former officer of the ODCE”.

“Now that the possibility arises of me having to testify to the committee without them having had the benefit of your submission, I should be grateful if you could let me have a response,” he told the director.

Appended to Mr O’Connell’s letter was a Freedom of Information request to the ODCE for all records relating to correspondence with the committee since March 2018.