O’Callaghan loses tribunal challenge

Owen O’Callaghan, the Cork-based developer, has lost his legal challenge to the Mahon Tribunal, which found he was involved in making corrupt payments to councillors over the rezoning of land on which the Liffey Valley Shopping Centre in Dublin was built.

He had claimed the findings were based on vague and uncertain definitions of corruption and that the tribunal gave him no opportunity to address the findings before its final report was published.

The tribunal decided, among other findings, that Mr O’Callaghan paid lobbyist Frank Dunlop £70,000 in Nov 1992 for which the primary purpose was to fund payments to politicians associated with the Quarryvale/Liffey Valley project. It found that Mr O’Callaghan was fully aware and actively engaged in the “corrupt disbursement” of substantial monies by Mr Dunlop. He has always maintained he knew nothing of Mr Dunlop’s corrupt payments.

Yesterday, Mr Justice John Hedigan noted that while there was some criticism made of the tribunal findings, there was in this case no challenge to the findings and the case made by Mr O’Callalghan was that fair procedures were not followed and the definition of corruption used was too vague and uncertain to allow him know what case he had to answer.

He was satisfied that all payments referred to in the tribunal report as forming the basis of the tribunal’s findings of corruption were put to Mr O’Callaghan in such a way as to alert him and his legal advisers to the possibility they might be found to be corrupt and so as to allow him fully explain and answer.

There were, the judge said, no new allegations and there could have been no doubt that Mr O’Callaghan was aware the payments were being investigated to determine whether they were corrupt. Mr O’Callaghan had the opportunity to answer in respect of payments made and details were put to him. He knew it was being investigated as to whether they were corrupt payments.

Mr Justice Hedigan said he was satisfied there were no new allegations made in the tribunal’s report which Mr O’Callaghan had not the opportunity to answer.

Throughout the tribunal proceedings, including pre-hearing correspondence and tribunal counsel’s opening statement, the judge said it was made clear to all that Mr O’Callaghan was being investigated in relation to payments made to councillors and others as to whether those payments were corrupt. Through his evidence, his counsel, and his written submissions, Mr O’Callaghan had every opportunity to explain, rebut, or excuse these payments.

The judge said the law of Ireland was very clear and established and there was no obligation on the tribunal to give a draft of its report for comment to those against whom adverse findings may be made.


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