Gardaí are under pressure to complete their investigation into the former deputy chairman of An Bord Pleanála (ABP) before the statute of limitations on his alleged offenses in October.
The criminal investigation was sparked by a lawyer’s report on Paul Hyde, which was forwarded last month to Gardaí, the chief prosecutor, and the state’s ethics watchdog, the Standards in Public Office Commission (Sipo).
The report is believed to have identified alleged breaches of planning legislation by Mr Hyde. The alleged violations are considered administrative offenses that must be reported to the district court within six months of becoming known.
Mr Hyde announced a conflict of interest on May 3, but the allegations surfaced in April in online news outlet The Ditch.
Informed sources said the investigative team at the Garda National Economic Crime Bureau has been told that if Mr Hyde is found to have a case, Gardaí must bring this case to District Court by early October, possibly October 3 or 4 The case was given priority by Fraud Police detectives, who have only a few weeks to collect evidence and interview witnesses.
To complicate matters further, Gardaí have no powers of search or arrest in their investigations and rely entirely on the cooperation of witnesses. This is because gardaí have no search or arrest powers for summary offenses.
An investigation file will be sent to the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) “shortly,” the source said. A decision on the case must be made by early October.
Mr Hyde came under scrutiny in April after a number of reports alleged conflicts of interest over some decisions on appeals against the plan. He denied the allegations.
However, Housing Secretary Darragh O’Brien announced on April 27 that he had appointed solicitor Remy Farrell to report on the alleged conflicts of interest.
On May 3, Mr Hyde admitted a conflict of interest in an appeals decision, but said he was unaware of the conflict at the time of his decision. He temporarily resigned from his role “without prejudice” and later resigned.
Gardaí were in contact with senior figures from An Bord Pleanála and visited their offices. The Planning Appellate Board has publicly stated that it will cooperate with the investigation.
It is understood the DPP has asked the Housing Secretary to delay the release of Mr Farrell’s report until a Garda inquiry has been completed and a decision on possible prosecution made.
Remy Farrell’s report focused on three of Mr Hyde’s appeal decisions and his personal debt. His mandate was to provide an opinion as to whether he had “properly disclosed to the board” all relevant interests, assets and business activities.
The penalty for violating the Planning Act’s disclosure requirements is a fine of up to €5,000, imprisonment for up to six months, or both.
On board Pleanála is conducting its own internal review of the files relating to Mr Hyde. As of press time, they had not responded to questions from the Sunday independent. However, the planning authority has previously said it hoped to complete that review by the end of August.
The Office of the Planning Regulator is now conducting a statutory review of the governance and operations of An Bord Pleanála.
A statement from the regulator said the review would be conducted in two parts, “taking into account the urgent need to move forward with measures aimed at restoring public confidence in An Bord Pleanála, as well as reviewing broader concerns related to the used Systems and procedures of An Bord Pleanála in performing certain functions”.
https://www.independent.ie/irish-news/news/gardai-find-themselves-in-a-race-to-wrap-up-probe-of-planner-paul-hyde-41959762.html Gardaí are in a race to complete planner Paul Hyde’s investigation