William Fry kingpin denies impropriety

O'Connell claims vital information did not come from Lowry

The managing partner of top Irish corporate boutique William Fry has denied allegations that he acted improperly in his client's involvement in a 1995 mobile phone licence auction.

In written evidence to the Moriarty tribunal last week, Owen O'Connell denied any impropriety while acting for Irish business magnate Denis O'Brien.

O'Brien's company Esat Telecoms has been under investigation by the Moriarty tribunal since 1997 for links between O'Brien and the then Irish Minister for Energy, Transport and Communic-ations Michael Lowry.

Although Lowry had no direct links with the auction process, the tribunal has heard that he had unauthorised meetings with bidders to discuss their bids.

A fax from O'Connell to Baker & McKenzie on behalf of O'Brien referred to a private disagreement between the European Commission (EC) and the Irish government.

It said the EC had “objected primarily to the 'auction' concept inherent in the proposals for grant of the second GSM licence. Accordingly, the terms of the application are to be revised with either no up-front payment required or a maximum cap placed there on.”

This could have given Esat a significant financial advantage. O'Connell had previously told the tribunal he could not recall the source of information in the letter.

However, O'Connell hit back with a letter last week in which he said the information was inferred from press reports at the time. The letter to the tribunal, written by William Fry senior partner Houghton Fry, said: “It does not appear to me to be the case, therefore, that the possession of that information by my client necessarily leads to the conclusion that there had been any impropriety or a breach of confidentiality by any person.”