Monday 20 November 2017

Angry Dukes insists 'nothing untoward' in deal

Former IBRC boss 'resents suggestion of criminality'

Alan Dukes, former Chairman of IBRC, giving a press briefing in relation to the Siteserv issue at the offices of Eames Solicitors. PIc: Mark Condren
Alan Dukes, former Chairman of IBRC, giving a press briefing in relation to the Siteserv issue at the offices of Eames Solicitors. PIc: Mark Condren
John Downing

John Downing

FORMER IBRC bank chairman, Alan Dukes, has insisted "nothing untoward" will be found in a review of the controversial €45m sale of the company Siteserv.

Opposition politicians say the deal cost taxpayers €105m and after three days of intense controversy Finance Minister Michael Noonan ordered a review of all IBRC deals over €10m.

However, in a special hour-long press conference in Dublin yesterday, Mr Dukes, the former Fine Gael leader and Finance Minister, said he "deeply resented and was scandalised" by any suggestion of "criminality" being involved in the 2012 deal.

"It suggests to me we're getting very near the 'Theatre of the Absurd'," Mr Dukes said, while stressing he would cooperate with the review.

Mr Dukes said he believed the Department of Finance had been seeking to influence the operation of IBRC. But the senior civil servants also wanted to stay back from the situation in case things went wrong and the officials could be blamed.

"That is not unusual in my long experience," he said.

Mr Dukes said that, contrary to recent reports, the Department of Finance was kept informed at all stages of developments at the former IBRC, which replaced Anglo Irish Bank and Irish Nationwide Building Society.

He insisted every effort was made to ensure the best return for the taxpayer and correct procedures were upheld in all transactions, including the sale of Siteserv to the Millington company owned by businessman Denis O'Brien.

"We didn't just have belt and braces. We had belt and braces and safety pins as well," he told reporters.

Mr Dukes said the sale of Siteserv was fully above board and went to the best bidder in Mr O'Brien. He said prior to Siteserv's sale, the company owed IBRC around €150m and was in considerable difficulty, "bleeding cash" and finding it difficult to get contracts.

He said that IBRC would have gained nothing by calling in loans because there was just no money in the company.

There were about 50 expressions of interest in the sale but it was decided to exclude so-called "trade buyers" to avoid the company being "upscuttled" by rivals merely seeking inside information.

Mr Dukes added that the bank had "cut out" an official who had been dealing with Mr O'Brien's previous business with the bank and appointed a different person to keep a watching brief on the Siteserv sale.

Replying to questions on the €5m controversial payment to the Siteserv shareholders, at a time when the company was bust, he said the IBRC board did not like it.

But their advice was that it was necessary to allow the deal go through. He said another firm, Altrad, had made a higher bid. But the view was that this would ultimately be "whittled down".

Mr Dukes also said that former Department of Finance secretary general John Moran sought to join the IBRC board but he had rejected this request due to a potential conflict of interest.

He added that Mr Moran "took the view that I was being obstructive" and relations deteriorated after that point.


He said the Siteserv sale process went on for some months and was regularly discussed at review meetings involving Department of Finance representatives, who looked from time to time at things that were going through that process.

Papers relating to the sale were also included as part of the board documents and a copy of these always went to the Department of Finance in advance of board meetings.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny has said if the opposition are unhappy with the outcome of the current review, which is due to be completed by August 31, the public spending watchdog, the Comptroller and Auditor General can be called in.

He said the rules would have to be changed to do this but it will be up to Oireachtas committees to decide.

Mr O'Brien has also said that, as the buyer of Siteserv, he had no control over the sales process and had no knowledge of other offers.

He said that, since the sale, company revenues and the number of employees had doubled and that he would be happy to appear before the Public Accounts Committee to answer questions.

Irish Independent

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