New ‘white col­lar’ crime au­thor­ity will re­place ODCE

Cabi­net re­ceives re­port on col­lapse of Sean Fitz­Patrick trial

Sunday Independent (Ireland) - - News - Jody Cor­co­ran

THE Govern­ment is to es­tab­lish a new cor­po­rate en­force­ment au­thor­ity to re­place the of­fice which was heav­ily crit­i­cised for its in­ves­ti­ga­tion into for­mer An­glo Irish Bank chair­man, Sean Fitz­Patrick, the Sun­day In­de­pen­dent can re­veal.

It is un­der­stood the Cabi­net has re­ceived a re­port into the col­lapse of the trial of Mr Fitz­Patrick, who was ac­cused but ac­quit­ted of mislead­ing the bank’s au­di­tors in re­la­tion to loans is­sued to him by the bank. The trial col­lapsed in May last year af­ter ev­i­dence was heard that wit­nesses were coached and doc­u­ments shred­ded.

And now the Of­fice of the Direc­tor of Cor­po­rate En­force­ment (ODCE), which in­ves­ti­gated Mr Fitz­patrick, is to be re­placed by a new au­thor­ity to in­ves­ti­gate al­le­ga­tions of ‘white col­lar’ crime, it has been learned.

The de­vel­op­ment comes as three govern­ment de­part­ments last week con­firmed that only 11 of 23 ac­tions sched­uled to be com­pleted by now, in re­la­tion to re­form of white col­lar crime laws, have ac­tu­ally been com­pleted.

Yes­ter­day Fianna Fail spokesper­son on Busi­ness, En­ter­prise and In­no­va­tion, Billy Kelle­her, said there had been “dis­mal de­liv­ery” on re­forms promised to be com­pleted over the last 12 months.

Af­ter the col­lapse of the Sean Fitz­Patrick trial, the then Min­is­ter for Jobs, En­ter­prise and In­no­va­tion, Mary Mitchell O’Con­nor, re­quested the Direc­tor of Cor­po­rate En­force­ment to pro­vide a re­port.

It is un­der­stood that re­port has now been fur­nished to the Cabi­net and a de­ci­sion made to re­place the ODCE. Its cur­rent, and prob­a­bly new and en­hanced pow­ers will be re­ferred to what is be­ing called “a new Cor­po­rate En­force­ment Au­thor­ity”.

Af­ter the col­lapse of the Sean Fitz­Patrick case, the judge heav­ily crit­i­cised the ODCE in­ves­ti­ga­tion that pre­ceded that trial.

In par­tic­u­lar, the judge crit­i­cised the man­ner in which the state­ments of two wit­nesses cen­tral to the pros­e­cu­tion — two au­dit part­ners from Ernst & Young — were ob­tained. Specif­i­cally, the judge ruled that both wit­nesses were coached by the ODCE and that, as a re­sult, their ev­i­dence was con­tam­i­nated. The ODCE fully ac­cepted the crit­i­cism.

How­ever, it its de­fence, the ODCE said the prac­tices crit­i­cised dated back as to early 2009. “Over the in­ter­ven­ing years, the ODCE has un­der­gone sub­stan­tial or­gan­i­sa­tional change and as a re­sult, some eight years later, it is a very dif­fer­ent or­gan­i­sa­tion to what it was at that time. It is clear at this re­move that, at that time, the ODCE was sim­ply not equipped to un­der­take par­al­lel in­ves­ti­ga­tions on the scale in­volved,” it stated.

An­other sig­nif­i­cant fea­ture of the trial was the shred­ding of a num­ber of doc­u­ments by an ODCE staff mem­ber.

Af­ter­wards, the ODCE said those ac­tions clearly should not have oc­curred, how­ever, said they had hap­pened at a time dur­ing which the staff mem­ber con­cerned was un­der “enor­mous stress and against a back­drop of sig­nif­i­cant men­tal health is­sues, cer­tain of which pre-dated the in­ci­dent and which cul­mi­nated in the staff mem­ber con­cerned be­ing hos­pi­talised for al­most two months in the im­me­di­ate af­ter­math of those events”.

The Sean Fitz­Patrick case had been the most high-pro­file with which the ODCE had been in­volved. Since then, the High Court has agreed to ap­point in­spec­tors to INM, pub­lish­ers of this news­pa­per, fol­low­ing an ap­pli­ca­tion by the ODCE over con­cerns that INM’s af­fairs had been con­ducted in an un­law­ful man­ner.

In re­sponse to par­lia­men­tary ques­tions to the de­part­ments of Busi­ness, Jus­tice and Fi­nance, Billy Kelle­her yes­ter­day said the Govern­ment has failed to de­liver on dead­lines con­tained in a re­port launched “to great fan­fare” last Novem­ber

A Govern­ment source said of the re­port, Mea­sures to En­hance Ire­land’s Cor­po­rate, Eco­nomic and Reg­u­la­tory Frame­work: “It’s a long-term re­port plan that re­quires new leg­is­la­tion, new pub­lic bod­ies to be set up, staff re­cruited and trained etcetera.”

How­ever, Mr Kelle­her said: “White-col­lar re­forms have been a fig leaf un­der Fine Gael. In the 2011 Pro­gramme for Govern­ment, many com­mit­ments were en­tered into, yet not de­liv­ered on.

“The col­lapse of the long­est-run­ning crim­i­nal trial in his­tory, in­volv­ing charges against Sean Fitz­Patrick, rep­re­sented a damn­ing in­dict­ment of the ODCE.

“The Govern­ment has promised for the last year to pub­lish an ac­count of the in­ves­tiga­tive fail­ures from the trial and have at ev­ery op­por­tu­nity fudged this. Min­is­ter Humphreys must pub­lish this at once.

“Min­is­te­rial over­sight of the ODCE un­der suc­ces­sive Fine Gael Min­is­ters in the De­part­ment of Busi­ness re­lat­ing to in­suf­fi­cient staff re­sources leaves a lot to be de­sired.”

AC­QUIT­TED: Sean Fitz­Patrick

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