A HIGH Court judge has expressed serious concern about delays in completing the investigation by the Director of Corporate Enforcement and gardaí into Anglo Irish Bank after it emerged the probe is not expected to complete until the end of this year.
The ODCE investigation, assisted by the Garda Bureau of Fraud Investigation, began almost two-and-a-half years ago after millions of files were seized from the bank in February 2009.
Mr Justice Peter Kelly was told yesterday “every effort” would be made to complete it by the end of this year and was asked to make orders effectively extending the investigation for another six months. He has reserved his decision to Tuesday next.
Files and reports running to 12,000 pages and related to three of the five issues being investigated were sent to the DPP in December 2010 and March last but the judge was told there was no information whether any decision had been made on those files.
On completion of the ODCE probe, one of several into Anglo, it could take another two years to complete any criminal prosecution.
Mr Justice Kelly, who had asked to be updated yesterday on the progress of the investigation, asked at one stage was the investigation “ever going to come to an end?”. He noted the investigation had been adjourned and extended six times by the court and remarked he was not “a rubber stamp”.
He noted he was previously told the investigation was expected to substantially complete by the end of last year but was now being told differently. He appreciated the matters were complex but reiterated his concern at the delay.
Paul O’Higgins, for the ODCE, said his client was doing all it could but the probe was complex, involved millions of documents and certain matters were outside his control. Some former Anglo personnel had refused to attend for interview or provide statements, one person took nine months to provide a statement and the director could not compel persons to attend for interviews.
The current Anglo team was co-operating with the investigation and claims of privilege by the bank were confined to a small number of documents, it was stated.
Four issues are being investigated to establish if they involve possible breaches of the Companies Acts and/or common law.
The first is the financial assistance by Anglo in 2008 to people to enable them buy its shares. The second is Anglo’s loans to its former directors and “warehousing” in Irish Nationwide Building Society of some of those loans at the end of Anglo’s financial year.
The third issue is the ‘back-to-back’ deposit arrangement between Anglo and Irish Life and Permanent Group for the benefit of Anglo at the end of its financial year in September 2008. The fourth relates to a loan to an Anglo director.
A fifth issue is whether the other four involve breaches of EC Transparency Regulations and the European Communities (Admission to Listing and Miscellaneous Provisions) Regulations 2007 and cannot complete until the probes into the other four are complete.
In an affidavit, Garda Supt Eamonn Keogh said the probe into the first issue was about 90% complete and an 8,000-page file related to that was sent to the DPP last March. Some important interviews had to be concluded and when that was done, additional evidence would be given to the DPP.
Supt Keogh said the ODCE, Garda Commissioner and their staff were co-operating in the probes. Last year, 280 witness statements were taken, many requiring extensive advance preparation, he added.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved