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New law to grant extra powers to allow the Siteserv inquiry get on with work

The ongoing investigation into the IBRC and the Siteserv deal has been held up by strict issues of legal confidentiality.

A BESPOKE NEW law to fast-track a commission of inquiry which will deal with issues in relation to IBRC loan deals is due to be passed before the summer.

The Cabinet has agreed to draft a bill to allow the inquiry continue its work and will put Siteserv issues at the top of the agenda.

Social Democrats TD Catherine Murphy, whose investigative work led to the commission, said this is the first time a law has been custom-tailored to deal with a particular investigation.

The ongoing investigation into the sale of certain loans by IBRC (formerly Anglo Irish Bank and Irish Nationwide Building Society) has been held up because of strict issues of legal confidentiality.

download (2) Source: Eamon Farrell/Rolling News

IBRC loans

The inquiry is investigating the sale of IBRC loans where there was a loss of at least €10 million to the taxpayer.

Six of the transactions involved write-offs of over €100 million.

Last year, its examination of up to 38 transactions – including the sale of Siteserv in 2012 for €45 million – effectively stalled after the commission’s chairman Judge Brian Cregan concluded that he did not have sufficient legal powers to proceed.

The commission said that IBRC’s special liquidators, KPMG, asserted a duty of confidentiality over all documents related to the bank that have been submitted to the commission.

The Department of Finance also asserted confidentiality over many of the documents it has submitted.

In its first interim report published on 19 November, the commission requested certain amendments to its terms of reference.

It informed the government that certain legislative changes were “required to overcome legal difficulties in respect of banker customer confidentiality and legal professional privilege”.

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Heading into an election, little was done and so when the next interim dropped (late on a Friday evening in April), it again outlined the same stumbling blocks were hindering the investigation.

It stated the cost incurred by the commission – which includes salaries, legal costs and rent – was €631,000 as of April.

To that date, the costs incurred by the special liquidators in assisting the commission were at €2.7 million.

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Grant Judge Cregan new powers

The new laws being prepared by the Department of Justice will supply Judge Cregan with the powers to continue his work and clarify any legal uncertainty.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny said the government discussed the drafting of legislation so the terms of reference would allow for an investigation into the Siteserv issue, which Kenny said is a matter of public concern.

A senior government source confirmed the new legislation will be brought before the Dáil before it rises for the summer.

Speaking to TheJournal.ie, Murphy said this was something she has been working on continuously in the background.

“I have had continued dialogue with Taoiseach Enda Kenny, Fianna Fáil’s Micheál Martin and Sinn Féin’s Pearse Doherty about progressing this.”

She said she was very pleased the inquiry – protected by the new legislation – would be able to continue.

The Kildare TD said she will be relieved when it is concluded and a report published.

While she said court action is a possibility for any commission of investigation, she said “there is always reasons not to do something”. She said the Dáil decided there was a need for an inquiry.

She confirmed that of the 38 transactions being examined, the Siteserv deal will be looked at first. It’s expected legislation to be introduced before the Dáil recess, with the commission carrying on their work into the summer.

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