Archive for January 2nd, 2011

First up, the Cork broadcaster Neil Prendeville who was reported to have engaged in personal masturbation in October on a London to Cork Aer Lingus flight. Apparently seated in the front row between one named witness, the journalist Niamh Hennessy from the Irish Examiner and another unnamed male passenger and facing two stewardesses, the well-known broadcaster is alleged to have been masturbating beneath a copy of Aer Lingus’s inflight magazine, Cara (meaning “friend” in Irish). The broadcaster himself was reported at the time not to have remembered the incident and claimed that he had taken alcohol and painkillers. The incident occurred on 19th October and on 5th November the Irish Examiner reported that the Gardai expected to hand a file to the Director of Public Prosecutions “in several weeks”. Now I’m no criminologist but how long does it take to interview two Irish-based Aer Lingus stewardesses and a Cork-based journalist, not to mention the man himself. Yes there might have been issues of mitigating circumstances (alcohol and painkillers) and of relevant jurisdiction in which the incident occurred (though I would have thought there were enough air rage incidents to create precedents on that front) but as we enter a new year, the latest update three days ago is that the Garda investigation “is ongoing”.

And then there is the case of Gerry Ryan. For the non-Irish audience, Gerry was a stalwart in Irish broadcasting for three decades and died suddenly at the young age of 53 on 30th April this year. Although he had his detractors, he was popular with the army of listeners that tuned into his radio broadcasts as well as the audiences of his TV programmes which included Ryan Confidential, Gerry Ryan Tonight, Ryantown, Gerry Ryan’s Hitlist and Operation Transformation. And at his funeral we were reminded that he was a much-missed family man. And no doubt he had other great facets to his character. But alongside these positive memories, in December there emerged in public at the inquest into his death his long-term use of cocaine and the likelihood that the drug contributed to his death. Then on 12th December, 2010 the Sunday Independent in Ireland published a piece by Irish journalist Joe Jackson who reminisced about his experiences with Gerry. In the article he said “I won’t name that guy either, but those of us who worked in the music business during the Nineties knew he was the dealer who supplied many of Ireland’s top rock stars with cocaine”. On the same day, the same newspaper published another story which stated that the Gardai would not be investigating Gerry’s dealer. So to be clear, here you have in the same newspaper one journalist claiming to know the identity of a cocaine dealer and you have the Gardai refusing to investigate the matter. And a week later on 19th December, a former RTE presenter Gareth O’Callaghan was reported in the same paper as claiming that he was about to “name Mr Ryan’s dealer to gardai” though a couple of days later the newspaper reported that Gareth told Gardai that he did not in fact know the identity of the dealer. Of course there will be difficulties with an investigation of what is likely to be a close-knit distribution network which will be suspicious of outsiders but as the CV of our outgoing €250,000-a-year Garda Commissioner, Fachtna Murphy tells us, our Gardai do have experience of investigation techniques in the FBI for example  and although challenging, it is difficult to understand why the Gardai have failed to make progress in the case since April. Again I’m no criminologist, but how difficult is it for the Gardai to interview Joe Jackson and find out the identity of the dealer. Surely journalistic privilege doesn’t allow you to claim to know the identity of a drug dealer in your own article and then tell the Gardai to get lost. The Gardai don’t emerge from this story with much to commend them.

And that brings us to the meat of this entry – the criminal investigation of certain events at Anglo Irish Bank (“Anglo” as we call it here domestically). Indeed there are at least four investigations of Anglo (by the Chartered Accountants Regulatory Body, the Financial Regulator, the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement (ODCE) and the Gardai) but this just deals with the Garda investigation (the ODCE has eight Gardai assigned to it full-time, five detectives, one inspector and two sergeants but its investigation is separate to the main Garda investigation). So to the main Garda investigation.

First up they are apparently investigating three events (a) the concealment of former chairman Sean Fitzpatrick’s personal loans in Anglo’s annual reporting by the temporary redemption of loans using funds from Irish Nationwide Building Society (b) the scheme organised to buy a 28% shareholding in the bank from businessman Sean Quinn so as to prevent a decline in share value and (c) the over-reporting of deposits at September 2008 year end by €7.46bn of temporary cash transfers from another Irish financial institution, Irish Life and Permanent. There have been two arrests, Sean Fitzpatrick on 18th March, 2010 and Willie McAteer the former Finance Director and Chief Risk Officer on 24th March 2010. Both were released without charge within 24/32 hours.The Garda investigation was underway in February 2009 and is staffed by 20 officers (40 people in total according to some sources) from the Garda Bureau of Fraud Investigation (GBFI). In November 2009 (14 months ago), Commissioner Murphy said he expected files to go the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) by the end of Spring 2010 (nine months ago). And in March 2010 after interviewing Sean Fitzpatrick the Gardai are reported as saying “they are preparing a file for the DPP”. And in October 2010, the Commissioner is reported saying “he expects the DPP to be in a position to decide on the question of criminal charges by the end of the year [2010 presumably]”.  To date there has been no confirmation that any files have in fact been submitted to the DPP.

And you might have thought there was great secrecy about the areas being investigated but no, it seems that the facts are accepted by all. The normally media-shy Paddy McKillen for example revealed at his case against NAMA at the High Court in October 2010 that the €40m loan he received to participate in the purchase of Anglo’s shares was non-recourse. We even know that there were 10 people who formed the group to buy Sean Quinn’s shareholding who are referred to in the media as the Anglo Golden Circle but it has now emerged that Anglo had a special moniker for them – the Maple 10. The government has steadfastly refused to identify the 10 though some have been identified and others have not denied being part of the group. No secrecy there at all. And it seems that the facts of the INBS/Sean Fitzpatrick loans and ILP/Anglo deposits are well known. So what on earth is delaying the investigation?

And why is it that the leader of the main Opposition political party, Enda Kenny, was able to hold forth on the detail of the ongoing investigation – two large files were going to the Director of Public Prosecutions he confidently explained to RTE on 16th December and that charges would be brought against “less than half a dozen individuals”. In Ireland, like most democratic countries, there is a separation of powers between the government and judiciary – that’s why the government can’t mandate changes to judges’ salaries for example, we are told. And I think that separation is respectfully observed. The Gardai on the other hand, report to the Minister for Justice but in the main they tend to get on with prioritising and executing their work largely isolated from political pressure. On the other hand, it would be perfectly reasonable for the justice minister to obtain progress reports on major investigations, particularly those of grave public interest. And further, I think it would be reasonable for the Minister to brief his counterparts in Opposition parties on progress in certain investigations. But Enda’s interview on 16th December went well beyond an overview briefing. He was able to give details of files and of the number of individuals in focus, for example. And it left me with the impression that some Fine-Gael-supporting Garda was briefing party colleagues, which if correct, would be wrong and presumably criminal.

So there you have it – it takes two months plus in Ireland to investigate a wank apparently witnessed by a journalist, it takes two years to investigate three events, the details of which are broadly in the public domain and even when a journalist says in a national newspaper that he knows the identity of a drug dealer the police service sits on its hands. And you have selected politicians knowing in some detail the progress of an investigation. You would have to ask if the service is fit for purpose.

UPDATE: 2nd March 2011. The Irish Examiner reports today that the Director of Public Prosecutions will not be pursuing the case against Neil Prendeville because of “jurisdictional issues” – essentially was he allegedly wanking before or after the planes engine had engaged for take-off from the runway at Heathrow! If it was after then he would be subject to Irish jurisdiction, otherwise to British but because it is unclear the case is not being pursued here though presumably it could be pursued in the UK. With a contribution from an aviation law expert, it seems that if you endanger the plane or property jurisdiction runs from when the doors on the plane are shut whereas offending people the “jurisdiction is determined at the moment power is applied for take-off”. Irish Examiner journalist Niamh Hennessy, who also happened to be seated next to Neil Prendeville at the time of the incident about which he claims he has no memory, appears to be very upset at the decision of the DPP. So there you have it, four months later and the authorities here decide they are unable to pursue a wank observed by a number of people including a journalist and where the accused does not deny the incident (though it is claimed that a mixture of medicine and alcohol affected his behaviour). What hope for the prospects of a prosecution in the case of Anglo?

UPDATE: 22nd March, 2011. Simon Carswell reports in the Irish Times that the DPP has requested the Chartered Accountants Regulatory Board (CARB) to defer a public disciplinary hearing with Sean Fiztpatrick into (a) the concealment of his loans at Anglo at year end (b) transactions between ILP and Anglo including the 2008 year end ~€7bn deposits and (c) Anglo’s dealings with a loan held by Director of Finance and Risk, Willie McAteer. The CARB has reportedly deferred its public hearing with Sean Fitzpatrick from 4th April to some time in October 2011. The reported reason for the DPP’s request is that it didn’t want the CARB hearing to prejudice any future Garda or ODCE action against Sean Fitzpatrick. The IT reports that “two Garda files relating to investigations into Anglo were sent to the DPP last December. The largest file related to the €7.2 billion back-to-back transaction carried out between Anglo and ILP which made Anglo’s annual results at September 30th, 2008 look healthier than they were.” Elsewhere the Irish Examiner reports “Watchdog told to stop questioning FitzPatrick”

UPDATE: 23rd March, 2011. It seems as if there is a clamour to demonstrate to the new government that the wheels of investigation are turning as the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement’s Paul Appleby has indicated the invesigations into Anglo will be concluded by the end of 2011 and that already “two substantially completed investigation files and three reports on the lender were in the hands of the Director of Public Prosecutions”, the second file having been submitted as late as last week.

UPDATE: 5th May, 2011. Thankfully it was Mr Justice Peter Kelly who yesterday heard the application by the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement (ODCE) to extend the application to allow the investigation continue for another six months. The Irish Independent reports that the judge said he was not to be used as a rubber stamp and challenged the delays in the investigation and the apparent slippage to the assertions given last year when it was claimed that the investigation was all but complete. The ODCE claims that certain (former, presumably) senior executives at Anglo have not made themselves available for interview. Well, d’ah!, given that these individuals might face serious charges as a result of those same interviews, it seems like a pathetic excuse. The ODCE went on to hope that the investigation which began 27 months ago would be completed by the end of this year but that a prosecution of individuals might not be completed for another two years. Judge Kelly is to make his decision next Tuesday. In all likelihood he will grant the extension though with some withering assessment of progress to date.

UPDATE: 10th May, 2011. Following on from the update last week (above), RTE reports that Judge Kelly did indeed grant AN extension to the end of July 2011 to the ODCE to conclude its investigation. However he pointedly did not grant the extension of six months sought by the ODCE and made it clear that if the ODCE were to seek an extension beyond the end of July 2011, then they would need present a strong case for so doing. The Judge is reported to have expressed extreme frustration at the length of time being taken to conduct the investigation when weighed against the damage done by the collapse of Anglo both here at home and abroad. The Judge took the opportunity to separately complain that matters which he had referred to the authorities following cases that had come before him, he complained about lack of progress in these complaints.

UPDATE: 27th July, 2011. In the High Court today, Judge Kelly is reported to have granted a six month extension to the Anglo investigation by the Director of Public Prosecutions and the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement. Charges will not be brought against individuals until 2012, it seems. It also seems Judge Kelly has softened his stance on the apparent delays in the investigations and seems to have been more sympathetic to the requests for an extension than previously. Worryingly it seems as if prosecutors might be relying on new legislation, contained in the Criminal Justice Bill 2011,  approved by the Seanad today to progress the investigation.


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