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Enda says a full inquiry into Siteserv would take quite a long time

More documents released under FOI show that Siteserv was not the only issue of contention between the department and IBRC.

Updated 12.50pm 

Get Health Summits Denis O'Brien Source: Leah Farrell/Photocall Ireland

ENDA KENNY HAS said a Commission of Inquiry into IBRC’s controversial sale of Siteserv to the Denis O’Brien-owned Millington would “take quite a long time”.

The Taoiseach insisted today that the government’s actions will produce a “very effective and speedy” process.

He was responding to opposition calls for a full inquiry into the deal after there was criticism of Finance Minister Michael Noonan’s decision to ask the special liquidator at IBRC to review every transaction which resulted in a capital loss of over €10 million to the now-defunct bank.

In other developments in the Siteserv story today:

  • Tensions between IBRC and the Minister for Finance have been laid bare in newly-released documents
  • The independent expert who supervised the sale said it was the simplest and best that could be completed. 
  • Denis O’Brien indicated he would be willing to appear before the Public Accounts Committee.
  • Former IBRC chief executive, Mike Aynsley, has complained about the release of documents by the Department of Finance.
  • Former IBRC chairman, Alan Dukes, will give a press conference at 3pm today. 

Speaking to reporters at a press conference with French prime minister Manuel Valls earlier, Kenny said: “The minister is in a position to direct the special liquidator to produce a report.

He has all the files and [will] do that quickly and speedily and will do so in respect of every transaction over €10 million and the report will be delivered to the minister before the end of August. 

Kenny said that the report can then be sent to the Public Accounts Committee and if members of the committee are concerned they can take the matter “a stage further”.

He said he had been mistaken in thinking the Comptroller and Auditor General could examine the matter, but said the law could be amended to allow him to do this if necessary.

Kenny said that setting up a Commission of Inquiry “would take quite a long time” and said the “special liquidator is in a positon to be able to present a report quickly”.

Earlier…

Last night, the independent expert who supervised the controversial IBRC sale of Siteserv said the deal was the simplest and best that could be completed.

Walter Hobbs said that €100 million lost from the sale to the Denis O’Brien-owned company Millington had already been lost back in 2011, and said the deal on the table was an attempt to save the last €50 million.

Meanwhile, in his first public comment on the issue, businessman O’Brien said this morning that he did not run the sales process of Siteserv and said he was merely the buyer.

He told Morning Ireland that since Millington took over Siteserv employees numbers and revenues have doubled. He said he would be happy to appear before the Public Accounts Committee over the matter.

It comes as new documents, released under FOI to the Irish Times, show a breakdown in relations between management at IBRC, formerly Anglo, and the Department of Finance in 2012 over the Siterserv deal and several other issues.

Tensions between government officials and the now-liquidated bank have come to light in recent days following the release of documents by independent TD Catherine Murphy and have caused a huge political controversy.

Source: Video: Nicky Ryan/TheJournal.ie

Last night, Noonan announced that the liquidators of IBRC would carry out a review of transactions carried out by the bank that resulted in a capital loss of at least €10 million.

Former IBRC chairman Alan Dukes, himself a former Fine Gael colleague of Noonan’s, is due to hold a press conference about the controversy later today.

‘Straight forward bid’

Speaking on Prime Time last night, Hobbs said the money had been lost as Siteserv had bought a number of construction related companies in Ireland and the UK on borrowed money.

When asked why they did not sell to the highest bidder, he claimed they did. He said Denis O’Brien’s bid was the highest bid, and was received on a three page letter with the simplest terms and conditions.

Hobbs said it was the most “straight forward bid” as other bidders had multiple terms and conditions attached to the sale.

site Walter Hobbs Source: Screengrab/RTÉ

Siteserv was in a “highly distressed” situation at this point, he said, adding that the O’Brien offer guaranteed a quick sale. Other offers had multiple terms and conditions attached to them, he said. 

The bid by the French company Altrad was designed to disrupt the bidding process, Hobbs said, because of competitive concerns that the company had. He added that other bidders were excluded because of the nature of the Siteserv business.

“My job was to get the best sale of the company,” he said, adding that he was happy he did that.

New documents

A number of new documents released to The Irish Times today show that the Siteserv deal was not the only issue of contention between the Department of Finance and IBRC.

The documents contain minutes and briefing notes between officials of IBRC and the department in 2012. 

The Irish Times reports that pay and remuneration in the bank was an issue as was the sale of an apartment block in New York.

The department were critical of how the bank managed its relationship with its borrowers, including the developer Paddy McKillen, and also took issue with the appointment of a senior official in the bank.

File Photo Michael Noonan says Alan Dukes reassured him on Siteserv sale. Alan Dukes and Michael Noonan in their Fine Gael days Source: Photocall Ireland

On a document dated 25 July 2012, minutes of a meeting show that the Minister for Finance Michael Noonan told Dukes that there was a serious problem.

He said that he was not confiedent on reporting to the Dáil on IBRC as the relationship had deteroriated so much.

Dukes and the then chief executive of IBRC, Mike Aynsley, responded and defended the deals undertaken by the bank.

Aynsley complaint

Quinn Family Court Cases Source: Laura Hutton/Photocall Ireland

Meanwhile, Aynsley, through his solicitors, has complained about the release of documents under Freedom of Information.

TV3 News says it has learned that lawyers for Aynsley have written to the Minister for Finance. Aynsley is unhappy about a reference to him in a briefing note regarding Siteserv and has emailed the minister demanding copies of all documents relating to him.

The letter states that documents released under Freedom of Information were “almost entirely redacted save for paragraphs where the character and reputation of our client was impugned to a degree that is designed to damage the reputation and standing of Mr Aynsley.”

It is extraordinary that our client has been personally targeted in this manner by officials of your department.  The document released is a serious attack on an internationally respected and highly experienced banking expert who was employed as CEO of an Irish bank that was in crisis at the time and to oversee its orderly wind down.

The statement goes on to say the “only explicable rationale for this highly personalised vilification of our client in the briefing note, was that during the period in question, officials of the Department of Finance were attempting to influence the process through which various transactions were completed by IBRC”.

“This was done with disregard to principles of good governance and the independence of a bank board to which our client as CEO reported.  It was to this independence that your officials took umbrage.”

- additional reporting from Hugh O’Connell 

Read: Noonan announces review into Siteserv deal as more FOI documents emerge

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