THE Garda Fraud Squad raid on the offices of Anglo Irish Bank was unprecedented and could lead to criminal prosecutions, according to legal experts.
On Monday, a judge in Dublin’s District Court granted officers from the Garda Fraud Squad permission to enter three separate premises of Anglo Irish Bank and take possession of any books or documents, including permission to preserve and prevent interference with any material information seized by up to 20 officers working with Ireland’s corporate enforcer.
It was the first time that the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement (ODCE) has ever sought permission from the courts to search the premises of a financial institution under investigation for possible breaches of company law.
The rarely used section 20 of the Companies Act 1990 has previously only been brought to bear against individuals.
Last night, the ODCE refused to disclose the reasons for its application to the District Court, citing “operational reasons”.
The warrant is valid for a month but gardai can retain any documents seized for an unlimited period of time, following changes in the law in 2005.
Legal experts have said that a series of possible prosecutions could result from the ODCE investigation including charges relating to the failure to keep proper books of account and breaches of rules relating to directors’ loans. The ODCE can also investigate possible offences where an individual who is financially interested in the success or failure — or the apparent success or failure — of the bank, sought to influence the bank’s policy.
The investigation of ownership of shares or debentures, including their acquisition, disposal or transfer, may also constitute grounds for seeking a warrant.
The new acting chief executive of the Financial Regulator, Mary O’Dea, has been working closely with the ODCE and exchanging information on matters relating to Anglo Irish Bank.
This includes an investigation into all loans and other benefits provided by the nationalised bank to its directors and the unwinding of a major Contracts for Difference (CFD) position held by businessman Sean Quinn.
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