DUBLIN Investigators probing alleged fraud at the failed Anglo Irish Bank since early 2009 asked on Thursday for another three years to conclude their case and were told by a Dublin High Court judge to wrap it up in the next year.
The Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement (ODCE) and the police are investigating events leading up to the collapse of scandal-hit Anglo Irish Bank and have so far brought charges forward in two of the five strands to their case.
A lawyer for the ODCE said the extension was needed because of the "mammoth task" in disclosing documents to defendants in upcoming criminal trials, including that of former Anglo Irish chief executive and chairman Sean FitzPatrick.
However the watchdog was only handed a one-year extension and told by the court not to slow the pace of its investigation.
"If it were the case that all the issues had reached completion in relation to the investigation and decisions had been made to prosecute, then I wouldn't have a difficulty with that," Judge Peter Kelly said.
"However it's only in the case of the first two issues that charges have been preferred," Kelly said.
He expressed concern that any further extension in the time granted to probe the other three strands might lead to a lessening in the intensity of the investigation.
The ODCE has said its probe includes allegations of share-price manipulation, the hiding of billions of euros in directors' loans from auditors and the use of deposits from another bank to mask large withdrawals.
FitzPatrick and fellow former executives Pat Whelan and Willie McAteer are due before Dublin's criminal court next week when a provisional date for their trial may be set. They have yet to make any plea in the case.
The collapse Anglo Irish, seen as emblematic of the casino-style lending practices that obliterated the local banking sector and pushed Ireland into an 85 billion euro ($114 billion)EU-IMF bailout, is expected to cost the Irish state at least 25 billion euros.
(Reporting by Sarah O'Connor; Editing by Padraic Halpin and Anthony Barker)