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'Total lack of frankness' by Denis O'Brien about how USB stick containing material about him 'materialised' on his desk, court hears

Published 11/12/2015

Billionaire Irish telecoms and media tycoon Denis O'Brien.
Billionaire Irish telecoms and media tycoon Denis O'Brien.

Businessman Denis O’Brien initially failed to be frank about how a USB computer memory stick containing a dossier of material about him “materialised” last October on his desk in his Dublin office, the “centre of his empire”, like “Dr Who’s Tardis”, the High Court has been told.

Michael Collins SC, for Red Flag Consulting, said there was a “total lack of frankness” by Mr O’Brien concerning how he got the memory stick in his first sworn statement grounding an application last October for an order to seize computers and other devices from Red Flag’s Dublin offices.

There was “implausibility stamped over all this”, along with contradictions, counsel said. While Mr O'Brien has said in other sworn statements he has accounted for how he came into possession of the memory stick, Red Flag disputed that assertion.

Mr O’Brien had initially given no information about where the memory stick was delivered to but he had since said it came to his offices in Grand Canal Street in an unmarked envelope with the decryption code written inside the envelope, counsel said.

There was no explanation how that could have happened, about how someone could have gotten through security and just "waltzed into his office", the “centre of his empire” to leave an envelope on his desk with the stick, Mr Collins said.

There was also no explanation why Mr O’Brien gave that stick to his solicitors rather than his IT experts or exactly how he learned of its contents which he said had shocked him. Mr O’Brien had also said he presumed the envelope in which the stick arrived had been disposed of “in the normal course”, counsel added.

Mr Collins also argued Mr O’Brien had in his first sworn statement given the impression he hired a “Jason Bourne” team of professional investigators to trawl the world to find the source of an alleged hostile campaign against him when what actually happened was a “one-man” Irish accountant based in Ukraine did a “desk top search” of media articles about him.

 Kiev based accountant John Whelehan, who was hired by Mr O’Brien, has said all he did was search publicly available media reports about Mr O’Brien, Mr Collins said.

This was akin to what Red Flag did in assembling publicly available material concerning Mr O’Brien and was not, as Mr O’Brien had earlier implied, some kind of “private eye” investigation. What Mr Whelehan had done could have been done by any member of staff in Mr O’Brien’s offices in Grand Canal Street in Dublin, counsel added.

There must be many people doing the same thing because Mr O’Brien is a figure of very significant interest and there must be hundreds of people including media looking him up all the time, counsel added.

Mr O’Brien had never explained how he made the connection between the arrival of the USB stock and what Mr Whelehan was doing, counsel said. He had initially said he had learned from the investigation of Red Flag’s involvement with the dossier but that, counsel said,  clearly could not have been the case. He had since said he learned from the dossier that Red Flag was involved.

Michael Cush SC, for Mr O'Brien, said that was correct, his client learned from the dossier of Red Flag's involvement.

Mr Justice Colm MacEochaidh has resumed hearing Mr O’Brien’s application for court orders compelling Red Flag to identity the client who commissioned a dossier of material about Mr O’Brien.

The businessman alleges that material is unfavourable to him and evidences a conspiracy to damage him personally and professionally. He also alleges defamation on grounds including there is material alleging that, in his use of his media and business interest, he is becoming  “Ireland’s Berlusconi”.

The material mainly comprises media articles about Mr O’Brien and also includes documents entitled: “Who is Denis O’Brien?” and “The Moriarty Tribunal explainer”.

He wants the identification of the client for the purposes of joining that client to his proceedings against Red Flag and some of its executives and staff, including Karl Brophy and Seamus Conboy, and non-executive director Gavin O’Reilly.

Red Flag is opposing the application. It has said the dossier includes its material and has also confirmed it had a client for that whom it refuses to identify.

The hearing continues.

Irish Independent

Irish Independent

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