Tuesday 21 November 2017

Dail claims that Denis O'Brien got €315m IBRC loan extension dismissed as 'wholly inaccurate'

Claim by Pearse Doherty disputed by IBRC's special liquidator

Denis O'Brien
Denis O'Brien
The loans to Denis O’Brien by IBRC were queried in the Dáil yesterday by Sinn Féin’s Pearse Doherty
Daniel McConnell

Daniel McConnell

CLAIMS by Sinn Fein TD Pearse Doherty that businessman Denis O'Brien made four attempts to extend a loan with the former Anglo Irish Bank and eventually got an extra 12 months to make repayments on €315m he had borrowed have been dismissed as 'wholly inaccurate'

A range of issues about Mr O'Brien's banking arrangements with the IBRC were put on the Dáil record in a debate on the Commission of Investigation into various IBRC transactions, to include the sale of Siteserv to Mr O'Brien's Millington company.

Further allegations were also made about whether Mr O'Brien's bid for Siteserv was the highest at the time of the sale.

Details of documents relating to the billionaire businessman's banking arrangements with IBRC were read into the record of the Dáil by Sinn Féin finance spokesman Mr Doherty.

IBRC's special liquidator hit back last night saying that the information was inaccurate and misleading.

The liquidator said the claims are "wholly inaccurate and misleading and does not reflect the facts of this case or the position taken by IBRC's credit committee."

Mr Doherty said Mr O'Brien met a case team from the bank and told them he had a "verbal agreement" with IBRC former CEO Mike Aynsley and senior executive Richard Woodhouse.

Mr Doherty said Mr O'Brien, the largest single shareholder in Independent News and Media, wrote to IBRC in March 2013 requesting he be able to repay his loans over a three-year period.

However, the bank's credit committee said the loan could be extended only by 12 months.

Mr Doherty said Mr O'Brien requested a further extension with no capital repayments in April 2013 but received a "de facto second rejection".

He said Mr O'Brien faced the possibility of having his loan sold to a third party with no facility. Mr Doherty said Mr O'Brien's other proposals were rejected, and the loan expired with no new agreement.

Mr Doherty said: "The individual made a fourth proposal to IBRC on 10th October 2013 for a 12-month extension with no capital repayments which, according to the document I have, it was approved on the 14th November 2013."

This was for a loan of in excess of €315m with a margin interest rate of 3pc, amounting to €10m per annum, he said.

He asked: "How does a bank in liquidation create what is essentially a new €315m loan which its group credit committee had rejected just a number of months earlier?"

Mr Doherty also said that in 2012, the eventual owner of Siteserv had an agreement with IBRC where the bank got "92.02pc of all Digicel dividends in excess of $50m" as part of a loan repayment agreement.

He said there was a once-off dividend distribution of $300m in 2012. The bank got a payment of €150m, equating to 65pc of the dividend distribution.

Mr Doherty said the balance was then used to pay down a Bank of Ireland facility which had been used to fund the Siteserv deal. He said: "In other words, we seem to have the terms of a loan agreement with IBRC being used to pay down a loan related to Siteserv but with another bank."

Independent TD Catherine Murphy referred to the sale of Siteserv and questioned whether an approach was made to Mr O'Brien's company to increase the bid. "I want the inquiry to investigate whether that did in fact happen and whether similar approaches were made to other bidders," she said.

Minister for Finance Michael Noonan also addressed the Dáil to correct the record on previous answers he gave on IBRC.

He clarified that the package of board documents, where the sale of Siteserv were included, had in fact been received by the Department of Finance.

In a comment to RTÉ last night, the special liquidators for IBRC said the information Mr Doherty put on the Dáil record concerning the alleged extension of credit facilities was inaccurate and misleading, and did not reflect the position taken by IBRC's credit committee.

Key allegations put on the Dáil record

  • Sinn Féin finance spokesman Pearse Doherty claimed Denis O’Brien made four attempts to extend a loan with the former Anglo Irish Bank and eventually got an extra 12 months to make repayments on €315m he had borrowed.
  • Mr Doherty also claimed the terms of a loan agreement with IBRC were used by Mr O’Brien to pay down a loan that he received from Bank of Ireland to purchase Siteserv.
  • Independent TD Catherine Murphy questioned whether the successful bid for Siteserv was the highest, and whether approaches were made to increase the bid.

Timeline of controversy

April 30: Denis O’Brien seeks a High Court injunction to stop RTÉ broadcasting what he says is a report about certain details relating to his private banking affairs.

May 21: After four days of hearings, the High Court grants Mr O’Brien his injunction. RTÉ says it is disappointed with the verdict. Full verdict

delayed from publication until June 5.

May 28: Independent TD Catherine Murphy reveals details of Mr O’Brien’s banking arrangements in Dáil under privilege.

Many media outlets, because of the RTÉ injunction, decide not to publish her remarks, despite them being said under Dáil privilege.

May 29: Opposition TDs call for Dáil recall, some describing the situation as a “constitutional crisis”.

June 2: Judge Donald Binchy clarifies his position that his verdict never meant to stop Dáil comments from being published.

He affirms principle of absolute privilege for comments made in the Dáil.

June 3: The Government announces intention to hold Commission of Inquiry.

Department of Finance has also discovered the minutes of IBRC board meetingswhich it was not previously aware it had received.

June 8: Finance Minister Michael Noonan meets members of Opposition about terms of reference of inquiry.

June 9: Mr Noonan brings terms of inquiry to Cabinet for approval and publishes them as two-day Dáil debate begins. Opposition TDs including Sinn Féin’s Pearse Doherty and Independent Catherine Murphy make further claims about Siteserv and Mr O’Brien’s dealings with the bank in the Dáil.

Irish Independent

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