AN ACCOUNTANCY watchdog’s inquiry into the conduct of former Anglo Irish Bank chairman Sean FitzPatrick has been postponed, following concern expressed by the the Irish Director of Public Prosecutions that it might prejudice future criminal cases.
The disciplinary tribunal, set up by Ireland’s Chartered Accountants’ Regulatory Board (CARB), was due to begin its investigation early next month (4 April). The hearing, which would have been in public, was to examine the role played by 62-year-old FitzPatrick at the debt-laden bank, which has since become synonymous with the Irish economic crisis.
However, following the intervention by DPP James Hamilton, the tribunal has now adjourned until October, when the matter will be reconsidered. A spokesman for CARB explained: “The DPP expressed his concern that the holding of public hearings and the publication of findings might prejudice future criminal proceedings in the event that a prosecution is directed against any party arising from the investigations by the Gardai and the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement.”
The spokesman added that CARB is now considering whether to proceed with the establishment of three other disciplinary tribunals to hear cases against other members of Chartered Accountants Ireland – former Anglo Irish chief executive David Drumm, former finance director William McAteer, and the finance director of Irish Life & Permanent, Peter Fitzpatrick.
A special investigator, John Purcell, a former comptroller and auditor general, had been appointed by CARB to examine possible breaches of professional conduct rules at Anglo Irish, and he reported that there were prima facie cases to answer against those named. In relation to the former Anglo chairman, he listed three issues:
• His role in the temporary transfers of his own loans of up to €122m (£107m) out of the bank and the failure to disclose them in Anglo’s financial statements.
• His role in the transactions between Anglo Irish and Irish Life & Permanent of more than €7bn in deposits on key dates in 2008.
• His role in relation to a loan of €8m provided by Anglo to finance director McAteer in 2008 to repay a Bank of Ireland loan and prevent his shares being sold on the open market.
FitzPatrick, a former council member of Chartered Accountants Ireland, was arrested and questioned last year by Gardai investigating the Anglo colllapse but has not been charged. Penalties that can be imposed by a disciplinary tribunal range from expulsion to suspension and a fine of €30,000.
There has been considerable criticism, both in parliament and outside it, at the length of time being taken to complete the official investigation into Anglo, with some claiming that if the Bernie Madoff case had happened in Ireland he would still be free.
However, it is understood that some Garda files have been submitted and the DPP’s intervention to halt the disciplinary hearing is being seen as an indication that some criminal charges may be imminent.
(picture by from informatique flickr photostream)
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