Moriarty Gag as a E100m Lawsuit Is Readied; OBrien: His Firm Was Awarded Licence

Article excerpt

Byline: Aiden Corkery

A ROW over a multi-million euro mobile phone licence awarded to businessman Denis OBrien is about to flare up again after the preliminary findings of a tribunal were banned from being published at the weekend.

Two newspapers were threatened with legal action by the Moriarty Tribunal i f they printed some of those findings.

The Irish Times was forced to pulp 25,000 copies of its Saturday edition after it was contacted by a tribunal solicitor at 11.30pm on Friday night, who insisted the report was confidential.

On Saturday night, a similar threat was made to The Sunday Business Post.

The legal threats were strongly criticised last night by Labour spokesman on human rights Joe Costello who said they represented an attempt to muzzle the Press.

It has emerged that a lawsuit potentially worth e100million could be heavily influenced by the tribunals final report.

The inquiry was set up in 1999 to investigate allegations of payments to the late taoiseach Charles Haughey and former Fine Gael minister Michael Lowry.

As communications minister, Mr Lowry oversaw the awarding of Ire-lands second mobile phone licence to Esat Digifone for e15mil-lion in 1996. The Esat consortium was led by Denis OBrien who later sold the company to British Telecom in 2000 for e2.4billion.

Mr OBrien personally made e320million from the deal.

However, the second-placed consortium in the licence bid, Persona, said in 2004 that it was suing the State for damages. Some estimates suggest the consortium could be awarded as much as e100million, if successful. …