Siteserv not yet contacted under remit of IBRC inquiry

Cabinet to consider emergency legislation to overcome legal obstacle hampering commission

 The Commission of Inquiry into IBRC is investigating disposals by the bank - which was the former Anglo Irish Bank - involving write-downs of €10 million or more - including the sale of Siteserv. Image: The Irish Times

The Commission of Inquiry into IBRC is investigating disposals by the bank - which was the former Anglo Irish Bank - involving write-downs of €10 million or more - including the sale of Siteserv. Image: The Irish Times

Harry McGee Irish Times

The Commission of Inquiry into IBRC has yet to make contact with Siteserv, the sale of which by the former Anglo Irish Bank forms an important part of the IBRC investigation.

The Cabinet is expected to consider rushing emergency legislation through the Dáil this week to overcome a legal obstacle that has effectively ground to a halt the work of the Commission of Investigation into IBRC.

However, the disclosure that Siteserv has still to be contacted will throw fresh doubt on the commission completing its work before the general election in February or March.

The commission, set up last summer, is investigating disposals by IBRC - the former Anglo Irish Bank - involving write-downs of €10 million or more.

They include the sale of Siteserv to a company controlled by businessman Denis O’Brien, a disposal which involved a write-down of €119 million.

The commission is also investigating a claim made in the Dáil by Social Democrats co-leader Catherine Murphy that preferential interest rates were given to some large borrowers. It was due to publish its final report by the end of December.

Confidentiality

In a short statement last night, Siteserv said that four months after it was established in July, the commission “has made no contact whatsoever with Siteserv or its shareholders. From the outset, the company had expressed its willingness to co-operate fully with the Commission”.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny confirmed on Sunday he had received a letter from Judge Brian Cregan, the chair of the Commission of Investigation.

Judge Cregan informed the Government that an issue surrounding his powers in determining on issues of confidentiality and privilege had meant he “was not in a position to proceed” with his investigation of any relevant transaction where “write-offs” occurred.

The issue, it is believed, relates to the 2004 Act setting up Commissions of Investigation. It is understood the commission did not have the powers to make a determination as to whether or not confidential documents in the possession of IBRC liquidators KPMG should be distributed to parties other than the commission. The liquidators have claimed legal and banking privilege over the documents.

Extension

The statement also refers to a request for an extension of time, which suggests that it will not be in a position to report by the deadline of the end of December 2015, set out by its terms of reference.

Ms Murphy and Fianna Fáil finance spokesman Michael McGrath both said the report would not be published until well after the general election. In several interviews, Ms Murphy also warned of the possibility of a collapse of the investigation.

“There is a real possibility of it collapsing, she said, adding: “That will cause absolute outrage. The people will not be taken for fools on this. It is absolutely essential that this information is known.”

The Taoiseach’s statement said he contacted Attorney General Maire Whelan on Friday on the implications of the determination. He asked her to advise him on the legal options available to ensure the investigation can by competed effectively and quickly.

Both Mr Kenny and Minister for Transport Paschal Donohoe, in separate interviews, raised the possibility of emergency legislation being rushed through the Dáil.

Sinn Féin finance spokesman Pearse Doherty said: “For [the inquiry] to fall flat on its face just before a general election will quiet rightly raise suspicion.”

Source: Irish Times, Mon 9, 2015