Wednesday 28 September 2016

High Court judge to assist review into Siteserv controversy

Donal O'Donovan and Niall O'Connor

Published 28/04/2015 | 02:30

Judge Iarfhlaith-O'Neill has been appointed to assist in the review into deals at the under-fire Irish Bank Resolution Corporation (IBRC)
Judge Iarfhlaith-O'Neill has been appointed to assist in the review into deals at the under-fire Irish Bank Resolution Corporation (IBRC)
Micheal Martin

The Government has appointed a retired High Court judge to assist in the review into deals at the under-fire Irish Bank Resolution Corporation (IBRC).

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Judge Iarfhlaith O'Neill will be tasked with responding to any potential conflicts of interest that arise throughout the review by IBRC liquidator KPMG.

Finance Minister Michael Noonan announced Judge O'Neill's appointment as the terms of reference for the review were announced.

The investigation is to examine all deals done by the former Anglo Irish Bank between its nationalisation in January 2009 and its liquidation in February 2013.

The review will be conducted by insolvency experts Kieran Wallace and Eamonn Richardson of KPMG, who are already in place as the special liquidators of the former bank.

But the decision to appoint KPMG to head the review has been criticised by members of the Opposition. And the move to further appoint a high court judge was described as a "weak" response from the Government by Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin.

He said it was clear the Government was doing all it could to avoid setting up an independent inquiry.

"The appointment of a judge to merely 'monitor certain transactions' at the IBRC does not go nearly far enough. The terms of reference are far too narrow. There is no effort whatsoever to address the fundamental conflict of interest that still remains unchallenged," Mr Martin said.

Mr Noonan said yesterday that the review would cover all transactions that resulted in a "capital loss" to IBRC.

"The review will cover transactions that resulted in a capital loss to IBRC of at least €10m during that period; or are specifically identified by the special liquidator as likely to give rise to potential public concern, in respect of the ultimate returns to the taxpayer," he said.

Meanwhile, a list of Siteserv shareholders in the period before its main assets were sold in a controversial 2012 deal was opened up for inspection by journalists yesterday for the first time since 2012.

The list is dated to the period up to June 2012, when Siteserv PLC was placed into liquidation. It lists all investors who held shares in the company at any time before the liquidation, though the level of detail about each shareholder is limited and varies.

Siteserv shareholders controversially received a €4.96m payment at the time of the sale, despite State-owned lender IBRC having to write-off debts of €105m owed by the business. The bank received €40m from the sale.

Company documents show that the largest stakes in the business appear to have remained largely unchanged for well over a year before Siteserv was sold. They were already known to include biggest shareholder and company founder Brian Harvey, who owned around 16pc of the company when it was sold.

Other significant shareholders in the company included people who had sold companies to Siteserv during its debt-financed expansion, and were paid in part with stock in the business.

Irish Independent

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