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Thursday 8 June 2023 Dublin: 12°C
Sam Boal/Photocall Ireland Michael Noonan
# following the money
Noonan announces review into Siteserv deal as more FOI documents emerge
The Department of Finance questioned whether shareholders should have received €5 million.

Updated: 21.57

FINANCE MINISTER MICHAEL Noonan has said a review will be held into several IBRC transactions, including the sale of Siteserv.

The company was sold to the Denis O’Brien-owned Millington by the Irish Bank Resolution Corporation (IBRC, formerly Anglo Irish Bank) in 2012 for €45 million.

IBRC had given Siteserv a loan of €150 million, meaning the bank wrote off €105 million and the State got back less than €50 million.

At the same time, shareholders were paid €5 million.

Independent TD Catherine Murphy has been looking into the transaction for over a year.

In a statement released this evening, Noonan said he will be directing the special liquidators of IBRC to “review and report on all transactions, activities and management decisions which occurred between the date of nationalisation and the date that IBRC entered into liquidation that resulted in a capital loss to IBRC of at least €10 million”.

The department of finance said the minister will also direct the special liquidators to include in their review and report “any transactions which give rise or would likely give rise to public concerns in respect of the ultimate returns to the taxpayer”.

The review and report will evaluate whether there is any evidence of material deficiencies in the performance of their functions by those acting on behalf of IBRC, including the board, directors, management, employees and agents of IBRC and whether it can be concluded that any of the transactions were not commercially sound.

The statement said that directing a review be conducted by the special liquidators “has the advantage of enabling work on the review to commence very quickly”. The review will be completed by the 31 August.

Noonan will then make it available to relevant committees of the Oireachtas as requested.

More FOI documents

New Freedom of Information documents were released to independent TD Catherine Murphy today.

In the documents, department officials question whether Siteserv shareholders should have received €5 million, given the position the company was in.

Murphy told the Six One News the new files “flesh it out a little bit further” and show the differences between “what the department thought and what IBRC thought”.

Independent TD Catherine Murphy outside Sam Boal / Photocall Ireland Catherine Murphy Sam Boal / Photocall Ireland / Photocall Ireland

In the files, the department said a trade buyer “may have been in a position to provide the best price” for Siteserv. However, they were excluded from the bidding process.

IBRC said including trade buyers may have led to people reviewing data with no intention of making a bid.

The bank said the controversial payment of €5 million to Siteserv shareholders in was necessary to ensure they voted to approve the transaction.

Meanwhile, the department said “arguably no payment should have been made to shareholders given the position the company was in”.

shareholders Catherine Murphy Catherine Murphy

They also questioned whether it was right to accept advice from Davy Stockbrokers on this as they were also advisers to Siteserv.

Davy said a payout of €4-5 million was needed to get shareholders to agree to the deal, but PwC said anything from €0-5 million was required.

The department also questioned why IBRC didn’t follow up on higher bids for Siteserv. The bank said this would have resulted in “further tax and legal due diligence” and could have “jeopardised” the price on offer.

All of the FOI documents received by Murphy today can be viewed here.

The opposition are not impressed by Noonan’s comments this evening.

Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams said the review being proposed “falls far short” of what needs to happen, stating: “An in-house investigation by the very liquidators at the centre of this scandal will not give us the answers we need.”

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin said tonight’s statement from the Department of Finance is a continuation of failing to do “the right thing”.

“This issue is not going away; it is causing genuine concern among the public and it demands a comprehensive response. Minister Noonan needs to go back to the drawing board and come forward with plans for an independent investigation,” Martin said.

Background: What exactly is Siteserv – and why is everyone talking about it?

Read: Enda: The government has ‘nothing to hide’ about Siteserv deal

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