John Delaney seeks extra time as he is accused of hindering watchdog's investigation

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John Delaney seeks extra time as he is accused of hindering watchdog's investigation

Ex-FAI boss John Delaney

Former FAI CEO John Delaney has rejected claims by the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement of engaging in conduct that would paralyse the corporate watchdog's investigative powers.

In a sworn statement Mr Delaney said he needs extra time to examine thousands of files, including the contents of his emails so he can set out what he says are covered by legal professional privilege and cannot be used by the ODCE as part of its criminal investigation into the FAI.

The High Court was due later this month to make a determination of some of the files are covered by legal privilege and cannot be used by the ODCE.

However, arising out of Mr Delaney's application for extra time that application is not proceeding and the matter will next be mentioned before the courts in September.

The files, which consist of 13 hard copy documents and a digital device containing 270,000 separate files including the former CEO's emails, were seized from the FAI's offices at Abbottstown on foot of a search warrant last February.

An agreed plan was put in place to allow Mr Delaney examine the files to see which ones are private to him or covered by professional legal privilege and cannot be used by the ODCE as part of if its investigation into certain matters concerning the FAI.

It was envisaged that the inspection would be completed before the end of July.

However, Mr Delaney, who is a notice party to the action, asked for additional time to examine the files due to the large number involved. 

That application was opposed by the ODCE. Mr Delaney, the ODCE, said was seeking to "complicate" what is "a relatively simple exercise."

It had no objections to his request to involved an IT forensic expert. However, the ODCE said it had put in place a system, with sufficient facilities, software and expertise that balances the rights and obligations of all parties and made the timetable entirely achievable.

In a sworn statement, which Ms Justice Leonie Reynolds had directed him to produce to the court setting out his co-operation with the inspection process to date, he denied trying to delay the process.

Mr Delaney formerly of Kingswell, Tipperary Town, now living in the UK, said that he initially did not know how many documents would need to be inspected.

He said was concerned that his rights may be infringed if he and his lawyers are not given enough time to inspect the documentation and the amount of time allotted to examine the files he said was "surprising and disquieting."

The documentation he said contained emails going back several years.

It could not only contain his work for the FAI but also his work for UEFA, and other bodies he had worked with during his time with the association, as well as his personal and private emails. 

He said what had clearly happened was the ODCE was seeking to resile from an examination strategy it had designed and had approved by the court, and was trying to blame him "for making the strategy unworkable". 

He said that he went to work in the UK, where he lives in a "modest" shared two-bedroom apartment near his place of work, to provide for his family.

He said, "since March 2019 over 1,000 media articles have been written in relation to me which had a huge negative impact on me and my family."

He added that many of the articles contained unfounded allegations against him and have been enormously damaging to his future career prospects. 

Many of the articles he said related to documents relating to his former employment and other private and confidential information.

"Because of the negative and hostile media in Ireland he moved to the UK in October 2019 and now works 60-80 hours a week to manage the operations of a start-up business which provides "essential services to public bodies in the UK during the Covid-19 pandemic."

He said that "as part of my work I have put my personal health at risk by attending sites where Covid-19 is prevalent even though I take the required healthcare precautions. I do this because I need the work to support myself and my family."

He said he had hoped to return to Ireland to inspect the documents, but due to Covid-19 travel restrictions and the demands of his work, Mr Delaney said he made arrangements for his solicitor Aidan Eames to inspect the documents.

He said that he was in telephonic contact with Mr Eames regarding the inspection. He rejected the ODCE's suggestion that he had ignored a direction to return to Ireland to personally inspect the seized items.

Mr Delaney added in his sworn statement that he also rejects the ODCE's claims that he should not have surprised by the volume of documents contained on the hard drive.

He said it should not have been assumed he would know how many documents were involved, and added he was locked out of his former work email account in March 2019, and has not looked at the contents of that folder since.

He said that like most people he would be hard-pressed to even give a ballpark estimate of the number of files on the email account. 

He said he has "acted in good faith" and was disappointed to be criticised after making genuine and sincere efforts to assist the ODCE in carrying out the investigations.

He said the ODCE could be criticised for putting together a timetable before knowing the number of files contained in the email folder.

Before the High Court, Paul McGarry SC for Mr Delaney said his client and Mr Eames were at all times were "practical, helpful and reasonable" regarding the examination of the documentation.

While a lot of work has been done to date counsel said that the large number of files have been examined.

Counsel added that preliminary investigations had indicated that approximately 35,000 files may be covered by either legal professional privilege or are private to Mr Delaney. The exact number has yet to be fully known.

In reply Kerida Naidoo SC, appearing with Elva Duffy Bl, for the ODCE, said his side believes that the investigation could be done much quicker than what appeared to be suggested by Mr Delaney's experts.

While Mr Delaney had not said how long is required the court had heard that the IT expert consulted by him said the examination could take 6 to 7 months.

Ms Justice Reynolds said the court was anxious that the matter proceeds as soon as possible. 

The Judge directed that Mr Delaney's lawyers to furnish the ODCE with the number of documents he says are covered by professional legal privilege and a schedule listing those documents by early September.

The case will return before the courts in September, the judge added.