Thursday 8 December 2016

The search for answers to this €426m fiasco hits stony ground

Shane Phelan Investigative Correspondent

Published 21/05/2010 | 05:00

THERE are many unanswered questions about the €426.8m deal to purchase the Irish Glass Bottle site.

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And despite promises from the Government, it seems we are no closer to getting answers about the biggest white elephant of the Celtic Tiger era.

The intrigue surrounding the whole affair has only deepened following revelations that records of key DDDA meetings have gone missing.

To make matters worse, the new DDDA regime has admitted many of the records of meetings which were kept on file were incomplete and did not reflect the discussions and decisions made.

The former chief executive and chairman of Anglo Irish Bank, Sean FitzPatrick, was a prominent member and sometime chairman of the committees whose minutes have vanished or been deemed inadequate.

Facing a garda probe over his activities at the bank, it is clear he also has major questions to answer in relation to the Irish Glass Bottle deal.

Both he and Lar Bradshaw sat on the board of both the DDDA and Anglo at the same time.

Although Anglo was to finance the Irish Glass Bottle deal, both men were not excluded from the 2006 meeting where the DDDA board decided to throw its lot in with the Becbay, the consortium buying the site.

A decision was taken by the DDDA board that there was no conflict of interest preventing Mr FitzPatrick and Mr Bradshaw from participating in the deliberations.

The DDDA needed approval from then finance minister Brian Cowen to borrow up to its statutory limit of €127m before it could join Becbay.

This approval was granted by Mr Cowen, on the advice of his civil servants.

However, their advice was based on an estimate provided by the DDDA that the site would be worth €220m.

Days later it was purchased for almost twice the price.

Following the collapse in the property market, the 26pc stake owned by the DDDA in the site has become virtually worthless.

Becbay consortium members have been at loggerheads in the courts; with one member, developer Bernard McNamara, settling an action taken by a group of smaller investors earlier this week.

In the meantime, interest repayments are crippling the authority and it has had to let half its staff go.

Influence

The controversial site purchase will be examined in reports on finance and planning at the DDDA, which are set to be published soon by Environment Minister John Gormley.

However, draft copies of these reports show they fail to deal with the influence Anglo exerted over the authority through the cross directorships of Mr FitzPatrick and Mr Bradshaw.

The reports also fail to analyse the level of government oversight of the authority.

They also fail to explore of the level of knowledge Mr Cowen had when he allowed the DDDA borrow money for the project from Anglo.

Irish Independent

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