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News : Irish Last Updated: Jun 3, 2011 - 7:19 AM

Anglo investigation "has made substantial progress" after 30 months
By Finfacts Team
Jun 2, 2011 - 3:26 PM

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The Director of Corporate Enforcement said today that investigation of Anglo Irish Bank "has made substantial progress" after 30 months.

Slow-motion is the default mode in the Irish governance system and of course there are always excuses.

It took two years after the issue of the State banking guarantee for the then Government to seriously tackle the banking crisis but then it was too late and the country had agreed a a bailout programme  2 moths later.

It has taken 2 public tribunals on corruption almost 14 years to finalise their investigations and one of them has yet to report.

Paul Appleby, the Director of Corporate Enforcement, today published his Office’s Annual Report for 2010.

Highlights from the Report include:

  • the submission by the year end of one complete file and a further three reports to the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) in relation to our ongoing investigations into Anglo. (Since the year end, the ODCE says a further substantial investigation file which is about 90% complete has been sent to the DPP. In addition, the Garda Bureau of Fraud Investigation submitted papers to him in late 2010.);

  • the determination of over 1,800 complaints and reports in 2010, a 26% increase on 2009;

  • the volume of reports from liquidators in respect of insolvent companies rose to 1,310 in 2010, a 50% increase on 2009.

  • The Office also made a major submission to the Department of Justice and Law Reform in response to its Discussion Document on white collar crime.

  • Other notable results from the year include:

  • the restriction of 156 directors (up from 108 in 2009) and the disqualification of eight directors (12 in 2009), on foot of liquidator actions;

  • the issue of some 24,000 copies of various Office publications during the year;

  • attendance by Office staff at 71 public engagements and events attended by some 2,400 people highlighting the importance of compliance with company law;

  • a total of eight criminal convictions (and two further charges taken into account) and one disqualification for various breaches of company law and duty. Some 17 other cases were ongoing before the Courts at the end of 2010;

  • actual financial expenditure of €3.67 million, a 37% decrease on expenditure in 2009, due mainly to a sharp drop in legal expenses.

Commenting on the results,Appleby emphasised the need to maintain focus on its important investigative work:

“On the investigations of Anglo Irish Bank, I want to make a few general comments this morning.

The first point is that this is a large and extensive investigation, certainly the largest by far that this Office has addressed in the ten years of its existence. The Garda Síochána have also indicated that this is one of the largest commercial investigations in which they have ever been involved. The time that this investigation is taking simply reflects its scope and complexity.

You will know that the Irish legal system is adversarial. It also rightly contains significant legal safeguards for potential suspects. In these circumstances, every procedural step taken by the Gardaí and the ODCE in these investigations will likely be subjected to intense legal scrutiny in the course of any criminal trials that may take place at a later date. Against this background, investigators must take the greatest possible care in acquiring and securing potential criminal evidence. This also takes time.

It is not well known that potential witnesses in criminal investigations are not obliged to assist the authorities. While the Office has received valuable cooperation from more than 200 people who have willingly provided witness statements to the Garda officers seconded to this Office, obtaining statements from reluctant witnesses can be a difficult and time consuming task. In this regard, I welcome the fact that the recently published Criminal Justice Bill proposes that witnesses, who are not suspects in a criminal investigation, may be compelled, in certain circumstances, to give evidence relevant to the investigation.

There has also been a lot of media comment about the pace of ‘white collar crime’ investigations here relative in particular to the US. The US legal system is not a good comparator for a number of reasons. It is more relevant to consider what happens in jurisdictions with similar legal frameworks to our own. In the UK, the website of the Serious Fraud Office publicly indicates that cases investigated by it currently take 4 – 6 years on average to complete.The Anglo investigation is well ahead of this benchmark, and I am satisfied that the investigation is proceeding diligently and expeditiously.

I make these comments to explain that complex investigations take time to bring to a conclusion. In order to help expedite matters, the Garda Authorities and my Office agreed some time ago a special arrangement with the DPP whereby we could send him ‘not fully completed’ investigation files to facilitate his early consideration of the material involved. Pursuant to that agreement, we sent him one completed investigation file, one substantial ‘not fully complete’ investigation file and three reports late last year and early this year. The Garda Bureau of Fraud Investigation also sent a significant volume of material to the DPP in late 2010. While I fully appreciate that there is some frustration with the length of time it is taking to complete these investigations, it is clear that substantial and tangible progress has been made.

Given that we are scheduled to report to the High Court on the progress of the investigation in a few weeks’ time, I do not propose to provide any further information this morning. What I will say is that the investigating officers on our Anglo team are a talented, experienced and committed group who are intent on completing a professional and thorough investigation as soon as possible. Our job is to acquire all relevant evidence to allow the DPP make an appropriate decision on the extent to which charges, if any, may be justified against any party arising from the events which are under investigation.

However, I should stress that it is a matter for DPP, and the DPP alone, to decide which charges, if any, should be brought. We will be giving every possible assistance to the DPP in making his decision.

I mentioned the new Criminal Justice Bill earlier. This Bill is a product of an extensive public consultation process undertaken by the Department of Justice late last year. I am publishing today the ODCE submission to the Department which has been considered in framing this new legislation. I have little doubt that this Bill, once enacted, will assist in expediting the future investigation of ‘white collar crime’.

Going on to deal with the rest of the Office’s work, the director commented as follows:

“Inevitably the large increase in our work, allied to the restrictions in available resources, has had an impact on some of our headline figures. We have had to allocate most of our resources to the Anglo investigation and also to dealing with the 50% increase in reports from liquidators.

Appleby said the cost of the Anglo investigation would be around €1m, but that figure would increase substantially if any of the matters under investigation went to trial.

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