The shortcomings and investigative practices of the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement (ODCE) in the trial of former Anglo Irish Bank chairman Seán Fitzpatrick are “completely unacceptable”, Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald has said.
In her first Dáil question time as Minister for Enterprise and Innovation, Ms Fitzgerald sharply criticised the ODCE. “They fell far short of the standard impartial, unbiased and thorough investigation we expect and demand.”
She pledged that “action will be taken to address any shortcomings and this could include changes in procedure, organisational restructure, enhanced powers and possibly new legislation”. Her predecessor as minister, Mary Mitchell O’Connor, had sought a report from director of the ODCE Ian Drennan on the facts in the case and the issues involved in the investigation of the bank since 2008.
The Tánaiste received the report two days ago – “on the day it was due” – and has referred it to the Attorney General for legal advice. It is her intention to publish the document.
The report sets out the facts relating to the case “and does not purport to be an investigation or an inquiry but is solely a review of the facts and will prove very helpful”.
Ms Fitzgerald pointed out that Ms Mitchell O’Connor sought an explanation of issues including the coaching of witness statements, the shredding of documents, a perceived bias by ODCE investigators and late disclosure of documents.
The Tánaiste said she would be in a better position to determine the next steps to take when she receives the Attorney General’s advice.
Fianna Fáil enterprise spokesman Niall Collins, who raised the issue, pointed to it being the longest-running criminal trial in the history of the State and “it showed all and sundry how inept the State is in terms of investigating and prosecuting white-collar crime”. He said most blame was rightly placed at the door of the ODCE. But “equally an eye must be kept on the actions or inactions of An Garda Síochána and the office of the DPP”. He said trials were going on every day of the week.
Mr Collins believed “this House will have to consider who holds the office of the DPP to account in terms of its quality control and throughput, much of which is questionable”.
The Tánaiste said that while Mr Collins mentioned the DPP and An Garda, the director of the ODCE was asked for a factual report “which is what I have received”.
He said the public was entitled to see the report and “to know how such a serious case dealing with events which impacted on the lives of so many people, failed abysmally”.
Ms Fitzgerald told him there was some legal work to be done on the report and then she would like to publish it.