THE Director of Corporate Enforcement has referred at least 15 cases to the Garda fraud squad as part of its investigation of the banking crisis.
Enterprise Minister Batt O’Keeffe revealed the figure as he rejected claims by Fine Gael finance spokesman Michael Noonan of political foot-dragging in the probe into Anglo Irish Bank.
But Mr O’Keeffe said it is “absolutely outrageous” that Mr Noonan would ask the Government to interfere with the judiciary in relation to the Garda probe into Anglo. “The judiciary is independent of all of the state institutions. It has to have regard for all of the rights of the individual under the constitution and surely Michael Noonan is not asking our Government to interfere with the judiciary. If he is, it is an outrageous call and a call that we reject out of hand.”
He said the Government wants to ensure people who have “fractured the law or broken the law be held responsible and accountable”.
“Look, it would suit us as a Government if the action was taken tomorrow morning — we would love that.
“But you have to stand back and realise that gardaí have a job to do — that is to ensure they can put forward a case that will be taken up by the Director of Public Prosecutions and, until such a time as the gardaí, in terms of the fraud they are investigating, are clear-cut about what they can bring to a court of law, we must have patience and let them get on with their job.
“We, as a Government want to ensure that anybody, who breaks the law is subject to that law and is penalised by that law.
“But we, as a Government, also understand that there are processes to which people have to follow. One is that a person is innocent until proven guilty. The state will not take action against a person unless there is a clear-cut case and it can be proved in a court of law.”
The minister revealed that he has met Paul Appleby, the Director of Corporate Enforcement, to discuss the progress of the Anglo probe and he indicated that the Government wants to make the probe as efficient and effective as possible.
“During the course of that meeting, it was indicated to me that there were a number of cases that he [Paul Appleby] felt could not be pursued by himself… He has now referred at least 15 cases to the fraud squad for them to investigate.”
Mr O’Keeffe said not all the cases related to Anglo but to the wider investigation into the banking crisis.
A spokesperson for the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement declined to comment. However, the Garda investigation into the €7 billion transactions between Anglo and Irish Life & Permanent is now believed to be at an advanced stage.
The second stage of the Commission of Investigation banking inquiry is under way and a separate independent review of the Department of Finance’s role in the crisis is due to be completed this year.
The minister also revealed details of a “plain-talking” meeting he, Finance Minister Brian Lenihan and Communications Minister Eamon Ryan had with AIB officials on Monday to discuss lending to SMEs. He said the bank has committed to make €6bn available over the next two years, particularly in Cork, where the bank has its strongest base.
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