Anglo probe ‘slowed down’ other inquiries

DIRECTOR of Corporate Enforcement Paul Appleby has admitted work by his office was “subdued” last year as a result of its investigation into Anglo Irish Bank.

Mr Appleby acknowledged there has been a slowdown in the number of inquiries conducted by his officials into possible breaches of company law due to the complex nature of the Anglo investigation.

In particular, he said the availability of Garda personnel for criminal investigations by his office was “severely reduced”.

Launching the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement’s annual report yesterday, Mr Appleby said he was forced to prioritise its criminal and civil enforcement activity during 2010 as resources had to be deployed to the Anglo inquiry as well as evaluating a large increase in liquidator reports.

Nevertheless, Mr Appleby said eight criminal convictions and one disqualification were achieved as a result of three cases which came before the courts in 2010. He claimed another 17 legal actions were also ongoing.

Under company law, the liquidator of an insolvent company is required to report to the ODCE about the conduct of any director during the 12 months preceding its liquidation as a measure of highlighting reckless trading.

Overall, 2,000 new cases were notified to the ODCE during 2010 — a 30% increase on the previous year.

Mr Appleby said the bulk of the increase was attributable to a 50% rise in the number of new liquidator reports arising out of growing insolvency rates in the economy.

A total of 1,688 liquidation reports were received last year compared to 1,123 in 2009.

The ODCE disposed of 1,800 cases last year — a 26% rise on 2009 figures.

It also secured the disqualification of eight individuals as directors in 2010 as well as restrictions on a further 156 directors.

In addition, the ODCE received 194 reports from auditors and accountants in relation to suspected breaches of the Companies Acts.

Unlawful transactions by directors accounted for 70% of such reports with most of the remainder relating to the failure to keep proper books of account.

Auditor reports revealed that directors irregularly borrowed almost €85m from their companies in 2010 — down from €162m in 2009.

However, Mr Appleby admitted that last year’s figure was likely to be understated as not all companies had been fully audited.

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