The State body charged with prosecuting white-collar crime was subject to scathing criticism from across the floor in the Dáil yesterday, in the wake of the acquittal of ex-Anglo chairman Seán FitzPatrick.
The Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement, which led the investigations into Anglo, was guilty of a “catastrophic systemic failure” which has “shattered public confidence” in the body, Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin said.
“The State’s capacity to investigate serious white-collar crime has been shown to be inept, negligible wasteful and virtually redundant,” said Mr Martin.
Responding, Taoiseach Enda Kenny evidenced his visible annoyance at the failed case and said he agreed with Mr Martin’s comments.
“Despite all the criticism of and cynicism about politics, at least there is political answerability [sic] in the sense that a Minister in charge of something like this would face instant dismissal,” he told the Dáil.
“I agree with Deputy Martin. The taxpayer takes up all the costs involved. The judge did point out that the most fundamental error was the way in which they went about taking evidence from the auditors of Anglo, who were both from the firm of accountants involved.”
He said Jobs Minister Mary Mitchell O’Connor has demanded a full report from the ODCE which she will present to Cabinet on Tuesday. He said she will come before the Dáil to make a full statement on the matter.
Mr Kenny also suggested the Government is willing to accept a proposal from Social Democrats leader Catherine Murphy to establish a statutory body in the Dáil to deal with white-collar crime.
The matter is due to be raised at Cabinet by the Taoiseach next Tuesday.
Mr Martin said the “dogs in the street knew about the impending disaster” in terms of the case, referring to previously collapsed trials involving Mr FitzPatrick.
Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams sought to undermine Mr Kenny’s expressions of frustration, saying resources to the ODCE have been severely cut.
“Last year, in 2016, there were 35 staff in the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement. They were assisted by five gardaí. This gives an insight into the State’s attitude towards white collar crime and corporate enforcement. Under the Taoiseach’s watch the staff of this office has been cut from 42 to 35,” he said.
“This lack of resources was highlighted by a senior barrister in 2014 who said “it is enough to make the tin-pot dictator of a banana republic blush”. That was not a Shinner but an expert in white-collar crime and a senior barrister.”
Labour leader Brendan Howlin expressed his outrage at what he called the “manifest incompetence of the ODCE”. He said those failures “beggars belief”.
Mr Howlin said he never received any request to increase the funding of the ODCE during his time as public expenditure minister.
Fine Gael leadership contender Simon Coveney said the collapsed trial of the former banker will “anger” and frustrate the public and that the corporate watchdog made a “mess” of the case.
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