A report in a Sunday newspaper yesterday claimed the former Government press secretary is likely to face a court appearance within the next few weeks on charges that he bribed politicians over two decades for their votes on land rezonings.
The 61-year-old PR consultant, who lives outside Dunshaughlin, Co Meath, has already admitted his central role in planning corruption during his numerous appearances in recent years before the planning tribunal in Dublin Castle.
Although the criminal prosecution of Mr Dunlop is not unexpected given his self-confessed role in bribing members of Dublin County Council during the ’80s and ’90s, it was generally believed no such action would be taken until the final report of the tribunal was published. However, the latest move is likely to be linked to the conclusion of the inquiry’s public hearings last week, although the report is not due to be completed before late 2009.
Nevertheless, CAB officers have been obliged to carry out their own investigations into Mr Dunlop as they are prohibited by legislation from using evidence given at the tribunal against him. However, senior gardaí will know that information uncovered by the planning inquiry can be used as a reliable “road map” for their own investigations. It is also understood that the Kilkenny-born lobbyist has co-operated with the CAB investigation and is likely to plead guilty to any charge.
Any conviction for corruption against Dunlop could spell trouble for more than a dozen politicians he has identified as recipients of bribes and could pave the way for their prosecution on similar charges.
Such a course of action could cause significnt embarrassment for the Government in the run-up to next year’s local elections as the majority of councillors linked to “bribes for votes” were members of Fianna Fáil.
Mr Dunlop first admitted his involvement in planning corruption in the witness box in Dublin Castle in April 2000 when he cracked in the face of evidence uncovered by the tribunal relating to secret bank accounts he operated at the AIB in Terenure. The lobbyist, who had previously denied any allegations of wrongdoing, went on to name 15 councillors to whom he had paid sums of money ranging from £500 to £40,000 in return for their votes on planning rezoning motions.
It remains unclear if the proposed charges against Mr Dunlop will relate solely to his role in having lands owned by English-registered company Jackson Way Properties at Carrickmines rezoned.
CAB has already sought to obtain €53m from the owners of Jackson Way as a result of its alleged “corrupt enrichment” from the sale of the lands whose value increased substantially following its rezoning.
Mr Dunlop could not be contacted for comment yesterday.
Retired council official George Redmond has also been prosecuted as a result of a CAB investigation over his alleged role in planning corruption related to lands at Buzzardstown in north-west Dublin.
The former Dublin city and county assistant manager spent almost a year in jail, although his conviction was later quashed by the Court of Criminal Appeal.