Furious TDs call for bureau to tackle white-collar crime

Outraged TDs are demanding a review of agencies investigating criminality and have called for the setting up of a white-collar crime bureau.

Furious TDs call for bureau to tackle white-collar crime

The calls came after Judge John Aylmer directed a jury to acquit former Anglo Irish Bank chairman Sean FitzPatrick on 27 charges relating to the hiding, from auditors, of millions of euro in loans.

Jobs Minister Mary Mitchell O’Connor said she is awaiting a priority report from the office of the director of corporate enforcement (ODCE) whose investigation methods were severely criticised by the trial judge.

After the longest-running criminal trial in Irish history, the judge highlighted the coaching of witnesses and shredding of documents.

The minister admitted she was “appalled” and people were “outraged” after the acquittal, but said a report from ODCE head Ian Drennan would be on her desk by June 23. She met with him on Tuesday, after the judge directed a not guilty decision.

Amid outcries from opposition benches, and even claims the banking trial was a “racket”, Ms Mitchell O’Connor said there was nothing she could do until the transcripts from the 126-day case were released by the court.

“I can’t investigate something when I don’t know what happened in the court.”

Questions were asked yesterday why the corporate enforcement agency had been under-resourced and why an investigator with limited experience, Kevin O’Connell, was put in charge of probing allegations that Mr FitzPatrick had allegedly misled Anglo’s auditors about millions of euro in loans.

Fianna Fáil’s Niall Collins told the Dáil the “small man always gets prosecuted” by the state, and that the collapse of the trial had “disgusted” people and showed a lack of capacity by the state.

“The whole thing was approached in such a botched manner,” the Limerick County TD said.

He queried the huge costs in state-funded free legal aid supplied to Mr FitzPatrick which included a senior barrister, three junior barristers and a solicitor.

TDs also said auditors Ernest and Young had questions to answer. Deputies claimed it was now clear the ODCE had been under-resourced and Mr O’Connell was not qualified to run the FitzPatrick trial.

The Dublin Circuit Criminal Court heard Mr O’Connell had shredded documents which the defence had argued made the trial’s continuation impossible.

Sinn Féin’s Pearse Doherty, however, took aim at Fianna Fáil, reminding the house that the party, when in power, had appointed Mr FitzPatrick to state boards and noted that former Taoiseach Brian Cowen had met him playing golf and “sipped wine” with him

The Donegal TD claimed “Ireland doesn’t do prosecution of white collar crime” and that the under-resourcing of agencies and the non-existent legislative framework were to blame.

He said the office of the ODCE had requested extra forensic accountants in 2013 and not received them until 2015. It was something akin to a Monty Python sketch, said Mr Doherty, in relation to how the State dealt with white-collar crime.

Labour leader Brendan Howlin said a full audit was needed of agencies now dealing with criminal matters while his colleague Joan Burton suggested a new special white-collar bureau should be established to operate in parallel with CAB.

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