Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Questions (2)

Jonathan O'Brien

Question:

2Deputy Jonathan O’Brien asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the date on which the Garda investigation into Anglo Irish Bank will be complete; if his attention has been drawn to the contents of the files which have been sent to the Director of Public Prosecutions; the number of officers from the Garda Fraud Squad involved in the investigation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30065/12]

View answer

Oral answers (8 contributions) (Question to Minister for Justice)

As I am sure the Deputy will be aware I, as Minister, have no role in the conduct of criminal investigations or in decisions on prosecutions. These are matters for the Garda and the Director of Public Prosecutions, DPP, respectively, and it would be most inappropriate for me to attempt to become involved in assessing the content of any particular files.

I can inform the Deputy that the Garda Commissioner has advised me that the Garda investigations in relation to Anglo Irish Bank are substantially complete. A number of Garda investigation files have been submitted to the DPP and her independent directions are still awaited. A full investigation team remains employed at the Garda Bureau of Fraud Investigation to conduct necessary follow-up inquiries. The Garda Commissioner has assured me this work is receiving absolute priority. The latest information I have from the Garda authorities indicates that 23 members of An Garda Síochána were engaged in the investigations into Anglo Irish Bank, including nine members of An Garda Síochána currently seconded to the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement, ODCE, and 14 personnel at the Garda bureau of fraud investigation.

I have previously stated in this House that I shared the impatience of many at the pace of the investigations into possible criminal behaviour at Anglo Irish Bank. I also appreciate that the investigators and prosecutors face particular challenges as a result of the complexities of the matters being investigated. This is the most complex investigation of its kind ever undertaken in the State. I am advised there are ten strands to it. It requires the analysis of a huge range of records - more than 800,000 separate documents and 250,000 recordings of telephone conversations. Of the telephone recordings, 15,000 were identified as being relevant to the investigations. A significant number of witness statements have been taken, and inevitably in a case like this, the statements can be extremely lengthy. Search warrants and court orders have been executed and persons arrested. It has also been necessary to carry out inquiries outside the State.

In the context of the challenges arising in the investigation, shortly after assuming office I published the Criminal Justice Bill 2011 which was enacted in July last. This Act provided new procedures to An Garda Síochána to facilitate its obtaining crucial information and documentation and accessing electronically held information of importance.

Additional information not given on the floor of the House

It is now for the DPP to determine on the basis of the files and all additional information furnished to her whether a prosecution or prosecutions should be initiated. This is a matter for the independent judgment of the DPP. Like everyone else, I am anxious that clarity be brought to these crucial matters as soon as possible. What is important now is that nothing be said which would in any way risk the possibility of prejudicing any criminal proceedings which might arise.

Is that answer related to any other question? There are similar questions. Is that merely the answer to Question No. 2?

This is merely the answer to Question No. 2. There are other questions of a similar nature. In fact, there is some additional information in my reply which, perhaps, I will have the opportunity to give to Deputy O'Brien in response to a supplementary.

I do not want to repeat this, but it would be useful if we could get the written answers. Sometimes the Minister does not have enough time and is cut off and then we try to ask supplementary questions on half an answer. The Oireachtas Service might take this into account and supply us with the written answers as well in order that we can ask informed supplementary questions.

I am well aware of the Minister's remit and the constraints placed on him in terms of an ongoing criminal investigation but it is appropriate in this case that there is some update given, and I appreciate the fact that he has given that today. I agree it is probably the most complex investigation undertaken by both the Director of Corporate Enforcement and the Garda. My information is that there was only one forensic accountant available to this investigation and perhaps the Minister could confirm that.

Search warrants were issued as part of this investigation. Can the Minister confirm whether any of those were issued under section 29, the one that was recently found to be unconstitutional? If there are potential problems coming down the road as a result of evidence obtained under section 29, it is important we are aware of it, that it is recognised at least, and the Minister is taking steps to ensure these investigations do not collapse.

On the latter issue, I have no information. A substantial amount of the information was obtained as a consequence of the Criminal Justice Act being enacted in 2011 and a great deal of it would have no relevance to the section 29 issue that has given rise to difficulty. In the context of the investigation, I do not know whether that issue arose. If it did, I am sure it is an issue to which personnel in both the Garda and the DPP's office will direct their minds. I have no information to suggest it is a problem or an issue, and I would not like it to give rise to any misunderstanding outside this House that it creates any particular difficulty in this investigation.

It is now for the DPP to determine on the basis of the files and all additional information furnished to her whether a prosecution or prosecutions should be initiated. This is a matter for the independent judgment of the DPP. Like everyone else, I am anxious that clarity be brought to these crucial matters as soon as possible. It is also important I do not say or do anything that could in any way prejudice any investigation into the matter. I am conscious an enormous amount of work has been done in this area by the Garda Síochána and the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement. There is a considerable volume of information within the office of the DPP.

I welcome that both Deputies O'Brien and Calleary have from time to time asked me about these matters. It is important we have some sense, as best as I can provide, of where matters are going. The DPP is entirely independent. It is now for her judgment to determine, based on the enormous volume of evidence, documentation, information and, particularly, the files furnished to her, whether there are adequate grounds for the initiation of any or one or more prosecutions in respect of the different strands of investigations undertaken. Like every other Member of the House, every member of the Government is anxious to know the position. We would hope that prosecutions, should they be appropriate, would be initiated as soon as is possible.

It is important that people know the investigation is, in the Minister's words, substantially complete, the files are with the DPP and it is a matter for her. We look forward to the outcome of her deliberations on it.

Perhaps the Minister could comment on the fact there was only one forensic accountant attached to the Garda investigation. In the Minister's opinion, was this appropriate? Was that one of the reasons, or part of the reason, the investigation took so long? I would appreciate the Minister's comment on that.

As Deputies, probably to the point of boredom, have heard me say to the House, on the first day I was in the Department of Justice and Equality following my appointment, I raised queries with regard to the investigations being conducted and whether there were additional resources required for the Garda or the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement. I arranged that staff of my Department would meet the Garda Commissioner, the Director of the Office of Corporate Enforcement and the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation in order that those issues would be discussed. I raised that issue particularly directly with the Garda Commissioner. At all times, I was informed that the Garda and the Office of the Director Corporate Enforcement had all the resources they needed.

I specifically raised the issue of whether they needed anyone additional in the forensic accounting area or in any other area, and on all occasions I was assured they did not. It was explained to me - it is not breaching confidence in any way - that it was not a question of needing a number of additional staff, but that one needed the same group of staff who had knowledge of the documentation through which they were going to engage consistently in the investigation with the prior knowledge they had. It could not be segmented. If one drafted in 100 staff, it would not have been of assistance given the way the investigation developed. That is the way matters were explained to me.

As I stated, the investigations are substantially complete. The documentation, information and files are with the DPP. It is always possible there would be some additional query on some aspect of matters, but as I understand it, what is now there is substantial and matters rest now with the DPP, exercising her discretion in accordance with law as to whether there is adequate information available to indicate that either a prosecution should be brought and is appropriate against one or more individuals, or that a prosecution cannot be brought and is not appropriate. These are matters on which there is legislation laid down for the independent remit of the DPP and cannot be in any way influenced by me, as Minister, by the Government or, indeed, by Members of this House.

Deputy Mattie McGrath is not here for Ceist Uimh. 3 and we will go on to Ceist Uimh. 4.