Corporate law enforcer rejects bank probe claims

THE enforcer of corporate law has rejected accusations that investigations into the banking sector have not been prioritised because the office is reacting to the will of Government.

A spokesman for the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement [ODCE] said such suggestions by Fine Gael’s finance spokesman Michael Noonan were not true.

“The ODCE is completely independent of any minister. And any decision or act on the part of this office is a decision of the director and not influenced in any way by Government in that manner,” he said.

The ODCE and the gardaí have been working in partnership to compile evidence in relation to the fraud investigations at Anglo since early 2009.

However, Mr Noonan said the delay was too long. And he said the failure of the investigators to bring cases as far as the Director of Public Prosecutions reflected Government inertia.

“Public servants, including gardaí and senior civil servants, always tend to act on what they regard as ministers’ and government priorities.

“And they obviously feel that there isn’t an urgency because these matters are not priorities with Government,” he said.

Mr Noonan said there had been a high-profile raid on the offices of Anglo Irish Bank and a dawn swoop on some its former senior staff.

He said Justice Minister Dermot Ahern should enquire of the gardaí to find out why the probe was not progressing.

And he called for an interim report to be delivered by the Director of Corporate Enforcement, Paul Appleby, into the status of the inquiry.

He also said Finance minister Brian Lenihan should demand a full clear-out of all senior management in financial institutions who had not resigned, despite having prominent roles before the sector’s collapse.

Justice minister Dermot Ahern said it was wrong to even suggest theGovernment had or should get involved in the investigation.

“As a former minister for justice, Deputy Noonan knows full well that ministers for justice have no role whatsoever in Garda investigations, prosecutions or the sending of files to the DPP,” he said.

“That is the norm in parliamentary democracies and it is alarming that Fine Gael are now suggesting that we depart from that.

“Any person guilty of fraud or financial misconduct will be brought to justice as soon as possible.

“But we cannot permit political interference in policing or the independent prosecution system,” he said.

The ODCE said that by their nature, corporate fraud investigations were slow and even the most basic probe would take an average of 18-months before moving to the prosecution stage.

The spokesman said this was delayed further in the case of Anglo because the banking investigation was the most complex in the history of the State.

However, he said Mr Appleby still hoped to have this phase of the inquiry wrapped up by the end of the year.


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