Evidence before the tribunal has suggested that the supposedly secret sealed process in which one of the six bidders was to be selected may have been breached.
A letter from EU Competition Commissioner Karel Van Miert to Michael Lowry, sent on July 14, 1995, came into the hands of an attorney working for Denis O’Brien’s company — the winning bidder Esat Telecom — within 10 days.
The tribunal has been told someone in the Commission probably gave the letter to the attorney. The highly confidential letter should never have been seen by any of the bidders.
The letter disclosed complicated but vital information about the selection of a successful bidder: that a particular criterion to be used in assessing each competitor would be given less than 15 percent weighting in the process.
Bidders knew what the criteria were and their order of importance, but not their weighting.
On July 20, 1995, an attorney for O’Brien, Owen O’Connell — who not named as the attorney with the letter — coincidently wrote to the minister for transport, energy and communications, Michael Lowry. The letter focused on the criterion mentioned in the secret letter from EU Competition Commissioner Van Miert, the fee to be charged for the new license, the item that was to be weighted at less than 15 percent.
The Moriarty Tribunal is now seeking to find out where O’Connell got his curiously coincidental information.
Meanwhile, Lowry, tainted because he failed to recuse himself from any contact with bidders, is believed to have met O’Brien for a pint in Hartigan’s pub on Leeson Street on the day of the 1995 All-Ireland final in Croke Park.
Over their drinks, Lowry advised O’Brien that Esat Telecom get Dermot Desmond’s International Investment and Underwriting Ltd., involved, it was alleged by Per Simonsen, of Telenor, Esat Telecom’s partner in the Digifone bid.
Lowry and O’Brien deny this meeting took place.
Further confusing testimony pits Tony O’Reilly, one of the losing bidders, against Lowry, who told the Tribunal that O’Reilly had complained bitterly to then Taoiseach John Bruton about losing the bid in the summer of 1996.
O’Reilly has retorted that he did no such thing.
Documents obtained by the Tribunal suggested that somehow O’Brien had further inside information: he expressed concern in writing that the department believed his bid was financially weak at the same time as such concerns were being discussed in secret by the committee in charge of selecting a winner.