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New Zealand launches investigation into incoming Irish Central Bank governor

Questions have been raised about whether he misled authorities following a high profile budget leak.

Image: Treasury

NEW ZEALAND HAS launched an investigation into Gabriel Makhlouf, the incoming Central Bank of Ireland governor, after questions were raised about whether he misled authorities following a high profile budget leak. 

Makhlouf, who is the Treasury Secretary and Chief Executive of the New Zealand Treasury, is due to take up the position as governor of the Central Bank of Ireland on 1 September.

The New Zealand State Service Commission confirmed yesterday that it had launched an investigation into recent questions raised concerning Makhlouf, his actions and public statements about the causes of the unauthorised access to budget material. 

Last week, Makhlouf’s department called in police after the opposition National Party released parts of the government’s annual budget, which was not due for release for a number of days. 

At the time, Makhlouf said his department had fallen victim to a “systematic” and “deliberate” hack, rejecting “absolutely” any suggestion the information had been accidentally posted online.

He was forced into an embarrassing backdown after police found no evidence that illegal activity was behind the leak.

“On the available information, an unknown person or persons appear to have exploited a feature in the website search tool but… this does not appear to be unlawful,” Makhlouf said in a statement.

He said Treasury prepared a “clone” website ahead of the Budget’s release but did not realise that entering specific search terms on it revealed embargoed information.
Budget documents are a closely guarded secret and Makhlouf said an inquiry would be held to ensure such a breach was not repeated.

‘Not tenable’

The National Party, which released the leaked information earlier this week, called for Makhlouf’s resignation, saying he had implied the party was behind an illegal hack.

“Clearly his position is not tenable,” National leader Simon Bridges told reporters.

State Services Commissioner, Peter Hughes, said the questions that have been raised are a matter of considerable public interest and should be addressed. 

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“It’s my job to get to the bottom of this and that’s what I’m going to do,” Hughes said.

Mr Makhlouf believes that at all times he acted in good faith. Nonetheless, he and I agree that it is in everyone’s interests that the facts are established before he leaves his role on 27 June if possible. Mr Makhlouf is happy to cooperate fully to achieve that. I ask people to step back and let this process be completed.

The Irish government announced on 1 May that it had agreed to nominate Gabriel Makhlouf for appointment as the new governor of the Central Bank of Ireland. His term as Treasury Secretary finishes on 27 June.

At the time of nomination, Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe said he was delighted to nominate a person of Makhlouf’s “international calibre” for appointment as Governor adding that he will bring with him a “wealth of experience to the role”.

Makhlouf was chosen to succeed the outgoing governor, Philip Lane, following his appointment to the executive board of the European Central Bank from 1 June.

With additional reporting from AFP

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Adam Daly

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