O'Brien hits out at 'fundamentally flawed' Moriarty Tribunal

Telecoms billionaire Denis O'Brien has launched a personal attack against the top judge who found a Government Minister gave him a leg up on to the stage of the global super rich.

The combative tycoon - whose estimated wealth is around €3bn - said the Moriarty Tribunal findings were "fundamentally flawed" because they were based on opinions and theories of its chairman and his legal team.

The blistering broadside will surprise few.

Mr O'Brien's impressive empire spanning Europe, the Caribbean, Central and South America - and which has him ranked by Forbes as the 254th richest man on the planet - can be traced back to a controversial mobile phone licence he secured in Ireland almost 16 years ago.

The son of a veterinary supplier and champion high diver, the father-of-four started his career in Irish radio after taking a degree from University College Dublin and an MBA from Boston College.

It was his audacious bid for Ireland's second mobile licence - despite concerns about his ability to finance the enterprise - that made him.

Esat Digifone quickly established itself in a country embracing mobile phone technology and a €2.4 bn takeover by telecom giant BT netted Mr O'Brien, 52, a vast personal fortune running into hundreds of millions.

He wasted no time turning his attention to new markets in the Caribbean with his Digicel outfit, along the way building up investments in radio, media, property, aircraft leasing, golf and other leisure interests.

Having scented some time ago the long-running Moriarty Tribunal would not cast him in a glowing light he went on the offensive with a media blitz and a website designed to undermine it.

When it finally found - after 14 years of investigations - that former communications minister Michael Lowry received payments from Mr O'Brien after helping him secure Ireland's second mobile phone licence, the response was quick and hostile.

"It is extremely disturbing that the chairman of this tribunal would choose to ignore the sworn evidence of the Department of Communication, Department of Finance, 17 civil servants, five Government ministers, two barristers from the Office of the Attorney General, one former Taoiseach, one senior counsel to the Irish State and Professor Michael Andersen, principal of AMI - the internationally-renowned world experts in this field," he said.

"It is also of great concern to the reputation of this country that the civil service which is unique for the respect it has earned over many decades has been impugned and discredited by the findings which are without foundation."

Mr O'Brien went on to assault the credibility of the chairman, Judge Michael Moriarty - and even demand an investigation of him by his peers - over his admission about mistakes made in the inquiry in the past.

"I believe it is unprecedented in the history of this country that a high court judge would make such fundamental errors which went to the heart of the credibility and integrity of a tribunal process," he said.

The personal tone of the attack mirrored an ongoing campaign against the inquiry which Mr Moriarty referred to in a section of his 2,230-page report.

The judge said "excesses of spinning", primarily by Mr O'Brien, had done nothing for the cause of objectivity.

Branding some of the public relations commentary as "rabid and puerile", he blamed the inquiry's length and cost chiefly on the "wilful concealment" of evidence.

  • Click to stay connected with more stories like this
  • Sign up here to receive news by email. Once per day, no spam.

Most Read in Ireland