Dermot Desmond: legal action

THE Moriarty Tribunal has withdrawn a number of key provisional findings involving businessman Dermot Desmond, dealing another massive blow to the under-fire inquiry.

The Sunday Tribune has learned that the Tribunal communicated late on Friday afternoon that a number of central points in its preliminary findings of late 2008 - concerning Desmond and relating to the ownership of the Esat Digifone consortium that won the mobile phone licence in the mid-1990s – had now been withdrawn.

The move directly follows a recent stunning admission by Judge Michael Moriarty that he had made "two significant errors" in his inquiry, and crucial new evidence from two state officials.

The officials backed up senior counsel Richard Nesbitt's evidence that he had advised the government in 1996 that awarding the licence to Esat Digifone was legitimate despite some changes in the group's shareholding. Nesbitt's evidence on this matter had been challenged at the time by the tribunal's legal team as "not credible".

The move on Friday to withdraw provisional findings has been described by tribunal watchers as "hugely significant" and "creating a precedent".

Desmond is also believed to be considering taking a legal action which will focus on the manner documents relating to the Nesbitt issue. It is believed that Desmond's legal team will argue these documents were materially relevant to a legal challenge the businessman took against the Tribunal, but which was rejected by the Supreme Court in 2004.

Informed sources say this is just one of a number of legal challenges to the Tribunal that a number of parties are currently considering and preparing and that things are now "getting hot and heavy" between the tribunal and the various parties affected by the preliminary findings.

There were intense rumours circulating last week that one of the senior members of the Moriarty Tribunal legal team, John Coughlan, had resigned. However, informed sources said this was totally incorrect. Coughlan has simply been off sick, they said, and there was no question of him having resigned.