Developers can flee but 'will not escape'
FINANCE Minister Brian Lenihan yesterday admitted he was powerless to stop indebted developers and bankers from upping sticks and starting new lives abroad.
The statement came at a heated Oireachtas committee meeting, where Mr Lenihan insisted he would be able to reveal the final cost of Anglo Irish Bank's rescue "by early October".
Amid the mounting cost of bank bailouts, Labour finance spokeswoman Joan Burton expressed outrage at the way bankers and developers could start afresh in new climes such as the US and the Far East.
"We don't have exit control in Ireland," an exasperated Mr Lenihan said. "If people want to move to another country they can. . . I am not accountable for their movements."
The minister stressed, however, that "every step possible under our law" was being taken to recover moneys owed to Irish banks and bring rule-breakers to justice, regardless of where they were now residing.
The most prominent exile, former Anglo Irish Bank chief executive David Drumm, was famously pursued outside his US home by RTE and is being taken to court by his former employers.
"If the deputy (Ms Burton) has any information (on alleged wrong-doings by any bankers or developers) that should be put at the disposal of the banks, of NAMA, and if there's a question of a criminal matter, of the Criminal Assets Bureau," Mr Lenihan said.
Earlier, he had promised the committee that a final estimate on the cost of Anglo's bailout would be available "by early October", against previous commitments of delivering a figure "by the end of September".
"There's nothing in that," he told the Irish Independent last night, insisting there had been "no slippage" to the original timetable.
Mr Lenihan also told the committee that the contentious issue of how to deal with the holders of the riskiest Anglo debt would be dealt with when the costing was revealed.
Beyond Anglo, Mr Lenihan rejected suggestions by international commentators that Ireland could improve its position by defaulting on its financial commitments.
"I'm not prepared to do that," he said, emphasising the folly of the country being used as an "experiment".
Mr Lenihan also rejected suggestions that cuts in the upcoming Budget should be less than the €3bn pencilled in.
"That would further erode confidence that the market would have in investing in this country," he said, describing the strategy as "very unrealistic".
International confidence in Ireland has dipped to record lows in recent weeks.
Mr Lenihan said there was "no doubt" that the cost of the banking bailouts had been the "main factor" behind that collapse in confidence.
The total cost of bailing out Anglo has been put as high as €35bn by ratings agency Standard & Poor's though Central Bank governor Patrick Honohan, who is overseeing the bank's recapitalisation plans, this week said the cost would be "less than the numbers currently being touted around".