The collapse of the trial of notorious Irish bankster Sean FitzPatrick has increased suspicions that the 26 County state is deliberately facilitating white collar crime.
It has emerged that Kevin O’Connell, a legal adviser who was given a lead role in the investigation, shredded key documents in his office in May 2015.
The Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement (ODCE), which was tasked with the prosecution, said the shredding of the potentially incriminating documents had occurred during a “panic attack” by O’Connell, who they claimed had acted alone.
FitzPatrick, the well-connected ex-chairman of the defunct Anglo Irish Bank, had been on trial for the last 126 days accused of issuing fraudulent accounts.
After the longest criminal trial in Irish history, the former bank boss was acquitted at the direction of the Circuit Criminal Court in Dublin on Wednesday morning after the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement admitted that their evidence was flawed.
“The prosecution having confirmed that there is nothing else against you, you are free to go,” the judge told the former bank boss. Mr FitzPatrick simply said: “Thank you.”
The ex-banker declined to comment on the case as he left the courts but cheerily said he celebrated the verdict on Tuesday night. “I’ve said everything I had to say yesterday, thank you very much,” he said.
It is the second time he has escaped punishment for his actions in regard to the fraud-ridden bank. In 2014 he was cleared of charges of providing unlawful financial assistance to 10 individuals known as the Maple 10, in July 2008, so that they could buy shares in Anglo Irish Bank.
Lax financial regulation in the 26 Counties was blamed for contributing to the banking collapse in 2008, in which the collapse of Anglo was the most devastating. Its falsified statements and disastrous lending practices, in tandem with the then Fianna Fail government’s unconditional guarantee for the state’s banks, forced the state to seek a bailout by the IMF and the EU.
The Dublin parliament heard statements that the collapse of the trial was deliberate.
Solidarity TD Richard Boyd Barrett said Sean FitzPatrick walked free because of a set-up and not a blunder. “This stinks to high heaven,’’ he added.
Deputy Speaker Pat ‘The Cope’ Gallagher attempted to stop the socialist TD from speaking out “lest there might be consequences”, but Mr Boyd Barrett continued, pointing to the consequences of a decade of austerity cuts which were imposed as a condition of the bailout.
“There is a direct link between Seanie FitzPatrick’s rotten, corrupt activities and Anglo Irish Bank and the families this week being sent to Garda stations or are sleeping in parks because there are no homes,” he said.
Mr Boyd Barrett suggested an individual with no previous experience of criminal prosecution had deliberately been put in charge of the case. He said the prosecution had been “contrived and conspired” to ensure he walked free. “It is an absolute scandal”.
“Ministers, gardai, judges and the Director of Public Prosecutions knew the OCDE was incapable of a serious investigation.
“He walks away free because of apparent blunders by one scapegoated individual,” he added. “I don’t believe it for a minute.. it is rotten.”
Sinn Fein’s Pearse Doherty TD attacked what he described as a “culture” of impunity for white-collar crime.
“The litany of failings pointed to by the judge amount to a damning indictment of those who are supposed to be prosecuting cases of white-collar crime in the State,” Pearse Doherty TD he said.
“Those bodies are simply not up to the task. The legislative framework is in need of an overhaul to bring it up to what is needed, for example reckless lending is still not a crime in this State. The culture and infrastructure needed to tackle white-collar crime has never been developed in this State.”
Party leader Gerry Adams said he has raised the issue of the non-functioning Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement countless times over the years, and called for it to be replaced.
“There is one law for the elites,” said Mr Adams. “If you are guilty of welfare fraud the full weight of the State comes down upon you,” he said. “But on other matters this government turns the other way.”