From top: Former Irish swimming coach George Gibney; journalist Irvin Muchnick
In America, groups of citizens can be brought together to work as grand juries which investigate potential criminal conduct and decide whether criminal charges should be brought.
They make this determination after obtaining and reviewing documents and other evidence, and perhaps hearing sworn testimonies of witnesses.
US journalist Irvin Muchnick reports that a grand jury is currently investigating USA Swimming in New York and, within that, questions are being asked about former Irish swimming coach George Gibney.
Mr Muchnick writes:
“The year began with what my ebook on the hunt for George Gibney called an “educated prediction” that “2019 will be the year of reckoning” for the former Irish Olympic swimming coach.
Gibney remains harboured in my country, the United States, a quarter of a century after he skated prosecution on 27 counts of child sexual abuse thanks to a controversial technical ruling by the Irish Supreme Court, and more than 20 years after the Irish government’s Murphy Inquiry “vindicated” his accusers.
In a legal Catch-22 laid bare by a federal judge’s 2016 ruling in my favor in a Freedom of Information Act case for Gibney’s American immigration records, his 2010 citizenship application got rejected.
(The applicant was probably making a panicked effort to shut down, once and for all, efforts to extradite and try him for his crimes, including one committed on US soil in 1991.)
At the same time, however, the government decided that Gibney was “not removable,” and his permanent resident alien status was kept intact. The reason given was that he has not been convicted of a crime.
Well, 2019 is drawing to a close and Gibney is still here. But my holiday message to Irish friends is that something important still seems to be happening with him, and soon.
Last week one of my sources, who is close to a secret grand jury investigation in New York whose non-Gibney aspects have been voluminously reported by the Wall Street Journal and other major newspapers, told me that additional persons recently testified to the grand jury regarding Gibney.
This is where I need to explain, yet again, what is and is not driving the US investigation of Gibney.
Not appearing to drive the investigation is any particular moral imperative to bring to justice a person I call the most notorious at-large sex criminal in the history of global sport.
What is happening, rather, is what I call the “chum in the water” model for getting Gibney. This lacks some of the focus and clarity desired by advocates for Gibney’s likely scores of victims.
But the good news is that it could bring about the same desired and long-overdue outcome.
The main task of the grand jury is handing down indictments for sexual abuse cover-ups at USA Swimming – and perhaps more important, insurance fraud, some of it involving the organisation’s now-defunct reinsurance subsidiary, the Barbados-based “United States Sports Insurance Company.”
For, you see, money dictates the priorities of the legal system, along with just about everything else.
The backdrop is the embarrassment of the federal authorities two years ago, when they were exposed as having been asleep at the switch in the scandals surrounding Larry Nassar, the pervert doctor of USA Gymnastics.
The current grand jury now is probing parallel cover-ups at USA Swimming, the grist of which has long been in the pipeline of multiple Federal Bureau of Investigation field offices.
Simultaneous with this is a development spurred by various news headlines and this #MeToo moment: 15 of the 50 individual states have relaxed statute of limitations standards.
Associated Press reporting found that, for the Catholic Church, resulting new litigation “could surpass anything the nation’s clergy sexual abuse crisis has seen before, with potentially more than 5,000 new cases and payouts topping $4 billion.”
Gibney is one of several real and live offshoots of the grand jury investigation of swimming.
As I reported in July with the publication of an updated edition of my Gibney ebook, these investigators are not examining just the ambiguities in his old immigration paperwork.
They are looking at his work as chair of a children’s medical mission in Peru in the late 1990’s, sponsored by a Catholic parish in Colorado — the first of several states of his US odyssey.
I have further reported that the church mission may be connected to the expansion into the US of a right-wing Peruvian sect called Sodalitium Christianae Vitae (“Fellowship of Christian Life”). The Sodalitium’s founder, Luis Fernando Figari, lives in seclusion in Rome, and today is disavowed by the group, following the separate publications of its own independent investigation and of a book by two Peruvian journalists, which document horrifying allegations of widespread sexual abuse and kidnapping.
Last month the US attorney in New York, Geoffrey Berman, who is directing the grand jury, declined to comment on my reporting – first to an Irish media outlet and then to me.
But note that Berman didn’t deny the accuracy of my reporting, either.
My own query to the US attorney had included the name of the co-coordinator of that office’s work on human trafficking, who is said to be spearheading the Gibney aspect of the grand jury probe.
The Irish Times and the Times of London, which seem most interested in recycling their greatest hits of two decades ago, have not.
But just because many major news media, in America as well as in Ireland, are too cautious to risk reinforcing the reporting of a lone freelance journalist does not invalidate its truthfulness and thoroughness.
So to those who remain hopeful, I say: Hang in there. And Happy Holidays.”