Where Lies the Morale Compass of Denis O’Brien
In Relation to the Moriarty Tribunal, the cards are on the table.
Judge for yourself
March 2010, a judicial tribunal found that a former minister for communications, Michael Lowry, “secured the winning” of the 1995 mobile phone license competition for Denis O’Brien’s Esat Digifone. The tribunal also found that O’Brien made two payments to Lowry, in 1996 and 1999, totalling approximately £500,000, and supported a loan of Stg£420, 000 given to Lowry in 1999. In his 2,348-page report, Mr. Justice Michael Moriarty found that the payments from O’Brien were “demonstrably referable to the acts and conduct of Mr. Lowry” during the licence process, acts which benefited Esat Digifone. In effect, O’Brien was trading in influence or ‘legal corruption’
Did O’Brien and Lowry behave in an ethical way in this matter
Let’s step back in time
The telecommunications company has been accused of giving gifts to a senior Antiguan government adviser who, along with an ambassador-at-large, have been suspended for allegedly making improper contacts with the tender’s board which is considering bids for the sale of the mobile department of the state-run utility company.
Senior adviser to the Minister of Communications Dean Jonas and Ambassador-at-large Dr Isaac Newton were suspended last month after Communications Minister Wilmoth Daniel said they met with the tender’s board in [an] attempt to influence the members to accept Digicel’s bid.
Once again, we see controversy in obtaining a licence from an O’Brien company
Where lies the moral compass of Digicel?
The licensing of mobile network operators has occurred in an unstructured, random fashion that defies explanation. Ownership has been obscure and one suspects deliberately so with the aim of concealing nepotism and corruption
Prosecutors in the USA identified smaller operators, which had been bribing politicians and officials at Haiti Teleco, by way of shell companies, in order to get cheaper rates for calls. A series of convictions has resulted in over forty years of jail sentences. By means of money laundering charges, some of the recipients of the bribes have since been extradited and convicted resulting in jail sentences of up to 40 years.
In May 2006, Comcel and Haitel had about 500,000 subscribers – a cell phone coverage rate of 6% for a population of 8.2 million. Digicel entered the market in May 2006. After one year of operations, May 2006-May 2007, Digicel went from zero to 1.4 million subscribers. The two other cell phone providers in Haiti, Comcel, and Haitel, responded by cutting their prices and offering new services. As a result, Comcel and Haitel increased their subscribers from 500,000 to 1 million. As of April 2012, Digicel has about 3.5 million cell phone subscribers in Haiti. In May 2007, Digicel started offering two BlackBerry services with the Internet, one for enterprises and one for individuals. On March 30, 2012, Digicel has made the acquisition of Comcel / Voila, its main competitor in the Haitian market.
The question is was all of this possible without backhanders.
It was interesting to see that one of the witnesses who appeared in the High court defamation trial against the Irish Daily Mail was the Former Minister for Social Affairs in Haiti Ms. Josefa Gauthier she told the High Court she does not believe businessman Denis O’Brien’s relief work following the earthquake was an act. She said that Mr. O’Brien never sought to publicise his aid work.
Ms. Josefa Gauthier is also a former director of the Digicel Foundation (1)
The disappearing millions
MIAMI, USA – President Michel Martelly told the Haitian Diaspora community in Miami that the National Fund for Education, established in May 2011, had accumulated $16 million [US] and not a penny of it had been touched. Although in January of 2012, Digicel CEO Denis O’Brien said the fund had collected $20 million [US], and in October 2011, the then-Minister of Education said the fund had $28 million [US].
In this instance the magnetic field appears to be giving the compass some problems nevertheless the signs still point to dollars
The background of Josefa is rather interesting.
*Ms. Josefa Raymond Gauthier is the daughter of Adrien Raymond a former minister under Duvalier Government a regime well known for corruption and heavy-handed treatment of its citizens.
On the return of baby doc. Jan 16 2011 delegation of former officials who had served under his regime was waiting at the airport including the former foreign affairs minister Adrien Raymond and former presidential guard commander, the former Colonel Christophe Dardompré.
Current Haitian government links to old regime would bear scrutiny … Thierry and Gregory Mayard-Paul, whose father Constantin Mayard-Paul was a lawyer for Claude Raymond, a feared army lieutenant general under “Baby Doc.” Etc
It is interesting to note that Laurent Lamothe the current Prime Minister has a background in telecommunications
*Min. of Planning & External Cooperation 07/11/201
(1) Many large corporations have charitable foundations and no doubt do good work. It should also be noted that some of the most corrupt companies in the world also have charitable foundations which leads to an illusion that they must be on the road to the
The Appeal Commissioner, Ronan Kelly, found in 2003 that a house at 6 Raglan Road, Dublin 4, purchased by Denis O’Brien in 2000 was not a ‘permanent home’ under the Ireland/Portugal Double Taxation Convention.
Revenue then withdrew an assessment to capital gains tax of €57.8m in the tax year 2000/2001.
This arose from the sale by Mr O’Brien of shares in Esat Telecom.
Counsel for the Revenue, Anthony Collins SC, said the Appeal Commissioner had ‘erred in law’ in not recognising that someone could have two permanent homes under the Convention.
It said it had ‘conflated’ the concept of a permanently available home and a principal private residence.
Counsel for Denis O’Brien, Dermot Gleeson SC, said the property at Raglan Road was purchased as an investment.
He said Mr O’Brien’s family had moved to Portugal and did not have a home in Dublin during the tax year of 2000/2001.
He added that “no stick of O’Brien furniture ever went into this house.”
In what is being called a “landmark case,” the Irish Daily Mail must pay Denis O’Brien, who controls Irish media group Independent News and Media, €150,000 in damages for libeling him in a 2010 article. The article in question “criticised his appearance” in TV interviews about his role and experience in Haiti after the earthquake, Irish broadcaster RTE reported.
According to RTE reports, O’Brien said the Daily Mail “accused him of hypocrisy motivated by self interest” and a “PR exercise.” The article, by Paul Drury, was titled “Moriarty about to report, no wonder O Brien is acting saintly in stricken Haiti.” It appears the article has been taken off the Mail’s website as iMediaEthics was unable to find the article online.
O’Brien’s libel case, which Irish Central described as a “landmark” case, was important for two reasons, RTE explained:
“It was the first major media defamation case to come before a jury at the High Court since the Defamation Act 2009 came into force.
“It is the first time a jury considered the new defence of honest opinion.”
There have been several high-profile libel lawsuits in Ireland in the past years, though, as iMediaEthics has written. This “honest opinion” defense means, according to the website of Irish law firm Brophy Solicitors:
“The defence of honest opinion will be upheld in an action for defamation if it can be proven that the statement consisted of an opinion that was honestly held. The courts will distinguish between statements of fact and opinion when this defence is raised.”
During the trial The Daily Mail’s attorney Oisin Quinn said, according to Irish Central,
“The right to express opinion is vital to society. This case is about the simple truth of the right to express an opinion. We want you to stand up for the right of someone to express his view.”
The columnist, Drury, added during the trial:
“I was offering a legitimate piece of opinion on a matter of enormous public interest that affected and continues to affect every one in this country.”
According to RTE, in this case, the Mail lost because the jury found the opinion was wrong:
While the jury agreed the piece was based on the honest opinion of the writer, they decided it was not an opinion based on fact and was not in the public interest.”
During the trial, O’Brien noted he didn’t seek help from the Irish Press Council, RTE reported, adding:
“Mr O’Brien replied that the Press Council did not have any teeth and he rejected the suggestion that a right of reply was the way to deal with the issue.”
The Press Council’s Miriam Laffan confirmed to iMediaEthics that O’Brien didn’t use the press council and said in response that reported comment that “Although we have not seen a transcript of the trial we have no reason to believe that this is not correct.”
Laffan also provided iMediaEthics with a press release from the Press Council of Ireland and the Press Ombudsman in response to O’Brien’s comments. The press release was signed by the council’s chairman Dáithí O’Ceallaigh and noted that while the council and ombudsman usually stay out of court cases, he wanted to “emphasise” certain things. He wrote:
“I have received a number of requests for a response to recent statements about the Council and the Office of the Press Ombudsman which appear to be based on a lack of knowledge of the record of these institutions, and a lack of awareness of its effectiveness and relevance in the matter of disputes concerning the press.”
O’Ceallaigh went on to measure the “public confidence” in the council’s Code of Practice and regulation through “an independent system which editors do not control” by noting that “in the five years since it was established, it has received almost 2,000 complaints.” He added that “Nothing in our procedures prevents anyone having recourse to the courts.”
The Daily Mail may appeal the case, according to RTE.
iMediaEthics wrote last year when O’Brien claimed Independent Newspapers — the company he owns 21.6% of — had “biased campaigns” against him in order to “discredit” him. Shortly after O’Brien’s claims were made in a letter to the company, Independent News and Media’s CEO resigned.
iMediaEthics has written to the Daily Mail’s solicitors asking if it will appeal and why the article isn’t online anymore. We’ve also reached out to O’Brien’s solicitors asking:
Was the Mail required to take the article off its website because of the settlement?
Is the Mail required to publish an apology or correction?
I’ve seen reports describing this as a significant case because of its use of ‘honest opinion’ defense and because it was a jury trial? Is this accurate?
RTE reported that the Mail said O’Brien “refused a right of reply and looked for damages immediately after publication.” Two questions:
When did O’Brien seek damages or pursue legal action? Was the ‘right of reply’ offered after the column was published? (Link: http://www.rte.ie/news/2013/0208/366807-obrien-says-he-pays-significant-taxes-in-ireland/)
That same RTE article reported O’Brien opted against pursuing any options with the Irish Press Council. Is this accurate? Why specifically did O’Brien decide not to use the council?
We’ll update with any responses.
Hat Tip: the Journal
In a stinging letter, the billionaire who was criticised by the Moriarty tribunal accused Ms Burton of “vindictiveness” and of making a “startling” personal attack on him.
Ms Burton is the second government minister to have received a letter of complaint from Mr O’Brien in the aftermath of his appearance on the New York Stock Exchange alongside Taoiseach Enda Kenny last March. Mr O’Brien also wrote to Lucinda Creighton — but the tone of his letter to Ms Burton — disclosed for the first time today — is harsher.
“I recognise that your political persuasion naturally leaves you unsympathetic towards someone in my position, but I remain concerned at the level of vindictiveness underpinning your remarks,” he wrote.
“That your comments would be endorsed in quick time by your party colleague, Minister Brendan Howlin TD, was an unsurprising display of political opportunism.
“I, clearly, am undeserving of any semblance of fair or balanced treatment. Political expediency demands outright condemnation. It is the easy option.”