From top: Sunday Business Post; Tom Lyons and Denis O’brien; the Banking Inquiry’s core book of evidence related to PwC
This morning Paul O’Higgins SC, for businessman Denis O’Brien, continues his cross examination of former editor of the Sunday Business Post about his articles on March 15, 2015, pertaining to a 2008 PricewaterhouseCoopers report.
Mr O’Brien claims the articles were defamatory of him.
The Sunday Business Post denies this.
The confidential PwC report was a Government-commissioned report in which PwC listed the top 22 borrowers of Ireland’s six banks in 2008. The Sunday Business Post reported that PwC recorded Mr O’Brien as No.10 on the list.
In November 2008, after getting the PwC report, the then Taoiseach Brian Cowen told the Dail that Ireland was right to guarantee the banks in September 2008.
He also told the Dáil that there was enough money in Ireland’s banks for the next three years.
The Sunday Business Post reported that the PwC report showed it believed – in its worst case scenario – Ireland’s banks would lose €10.6billion.
Ireland would eventually go on to get a EU/IMF bailout for €64billion in 2010.
The jury in the High Court, before Justice Bernard Barton, has heard that the Sunday Business Post reported in one of the articles:
“[Denis] O’Brien he went on to repay all his debts to Anglo. He is one of AIB and Bank of Ireland’s best clients.”
It’s also heard, on a number of occasions this week, how Mr Lyons destroyed his copy of the PwC report on St Patrick’s Day 2015 by putting it through a shredder in the offices of the Sunday Business Post.
He said he did this to protect his source as he believed the document was traceable.
Mr O’Higgins SC, for Mr O’Brien, quipped yesterday that this was like the “St Patrick’s Day massacre” – a reference to St Patrick’s Day in 2008 when €3.5 billion was wiped off the value of stocks on the Irish Stock Exchange.
A common refrain from Mr O’Brien’s legal team is that they have not seen the PwC report.
When it was put to Mr Lyons by his own counsel Michael McDowell SC that it was Mr O’Brien’s case that he was “the odd man out”, that he should never have been put in the articles with the other 21 men – and that to do so was “defamatory, gratuitous, unnecessary” and done of out of “malice” – Mr Lyons said: “Jesus, that’s nonsense.”
Mr Lyons also said he found it “shocking” that Mr O’Brien said he wouldn’t put it past Mr Lyons to just stick Mr O’Brien into the articles.
Mr Lyons rubbished the suggestion that Mr O’Brien was the victim of some kind of “crazy conspiracy” cooked up by him and the former editor of the Sunday Business Post Ian Kehoe.
The jury has also heard that at the time that the articles were published – in March 2015 – the Banking Inquiry was under way.
It heard that the inquiry contacted Mr Lyons for a copy of the PwC report.
But, at this point, Mr Lyons said he had already destroyed it.
Asked earlier this week if he was surprised when the inquiry asked him for the report, Mr Lyons said:
“It did surprise me. I had this suspicion they hadn’t got it. It was a gut instinct. But when it came out that they hadn’t got it, I was very surprised.”
Further to this…
In PwC’s core book of evidence for the Banking Inquiry – which is publicly available online – one section of it’s evidence appears to match the headline figures reported by the Sunday Business Post on March 15, 2015.
The item is headlined:
The top 22 exposures across the six institutions we have reviewed total 25.5 billion of which 13.7 billion (53%) is in Anglo and 8.1 billion (32%) in AIB.
The PwC core booklet can be viewed here in full
The case continues.
Update: Meanwhile, in the High Court
Yesterday: “He Thinks It’s All About Him”