FitzPatrick trial failure bordered on ‘criminality’

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FitzPatrick trial failure bordered on ‘criminality’

Bill will create new watchdog


Trial collapse: Sean FitzPatrick was acquitted of all charges in 2017
Trial collapse: Sean FitzPatrick was acquitted of all charges in 2017

THE spectacular collapse of the trial of the former Anglo Irish Bank chairman Sean FitzPatrick in 2017 was a result of conduct characterised by “gross incompetence” and bordered on “potential criminality”, the Joint Committee on Business, Enterprise and Innovation was told yesterday.

The comments by Fianna Fail TD and spokesman on Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, Billy Kelleher, were made as the committee probed a proposed Bill designed to overhaul the State’s powers to crack down on white collar crime in Ireland.

The Bill will also establish the Corporate Enforcement Authority – an autonomous successor to the Office of the Director for Corporate Enforcement (ODCE). The ODCE was left reeling from stinging criticism from the judge presiding over the Sean FitzPatrick trial in 2017.

In 2017, the then Tanaiste and Justice Minister, Frances Fitzgerald, slammed the ODCE as “not fit for purpose”.

But Eadaoin Collins, a principal officer with the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, yesterday evening defended the ODCE, following a slate of new appointments since 2012.

“The ODCE is fit for purpose,” said Ms Collins. “It has, I believe, a very strong track record. “Just to put this into context, there were a number of investigations in parallel and there was only one where adverse shortcomings were identified. The office does have a good track record in terms of prosecutions.”

The planned overhaul of the ODCE was announced by the Government in late 2017, soon after the trial of Mr FitzPatrick collapsed.

He had been accused of allegedly misleading Anglo Irish Bank’s auditors in relation to millions of euro in loans he received from the bank. He had pleaded not guilty to 27 offences.

Hearing the case, Justice John Aylmer said that the investigation that had been carried out by the ODCE fell short of an unbiased, impartial, balanced investigation that an accused is entitled to.

Mr FitzPatrick was acquitted on all counts.

The ODCE’s lead investigator, Kevin O’Connell, had previously admitted to destroying potentially relevant documentary evidence. That admission came during the initial trial of Mr FitzPatrick, in 2015.

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Ms Collins said it was “fully accepted” that the standard of investigation by the ODCE in the case “was below par”.

Incredibly, for the first time, the new Bill plans to give the new corporate watchdog permission, on foot of a search warrant, to use its own devices on site to connect to corporate networks and to access off-site machines or cloud storage belonging to either an entity or individual.

Until now, evidence had to be in physical form, such as a printed document, or testimony from a person who witnessed an event.

Irish Independent

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