TWO of Ireland's most high profile anti-EU/IMF bailout campaigners have launched a company that they say will help clients put money into Swiss bank accounts.
Businessman turned politician Declan Ganley and economist Constantin Gurdgiev are two of the four-strong management team behind St Columbanus AG -- a Swiss asset-management company that opened for business yesterday.
Both men are shareholders in the new venture.
In its literature, St Columbanus appears to deliberately target concerns about confidence in the creditworthiness of the Irish banks.
"The firm provides a safe haven for assets in the midst of the continuing global financial crisis, a service that appears increasingly important in the current European context of fragile peripheral economies, and an unstable eurozone banking sector," the company's website states.
Mr Ganley told the Irish Independent that the company was not specifically trying to lure Irish money offshore.
"We are not targeting deposits in any specific country, the company is regulated to do business in Switzerland. However, anyone is free to come to us there," he said.
With high-profile Irish backers, a name commemorating an Irish missionary, and with a website that is not published in any of the official Swiss languages, it is clear that St Columbanus is targeting a client base outside that country.
The backers confirmed that they did have ambitions to launch in Ireland in the future.
Any suggestion that the new venture aimed to benefit from scaremongering about the safety of bank deposits in Ireland was wide of the mark, Mr Ganley said.
"It's in people's interests to protect their assets and make good choices, this just becomes another option to take advantage of," he said.
The company is not a bank and will not hold money on deposit. According to its promotional literature it will partner with banks in Switzerland to provide clients with access to Swiss bank accounts.
Mr Ganley said he chose to establish the new venture in Switzerland because the country had a long-established tradition of strong financial regulation.
In the longer term, St Columbanus aims to act as an asset manager, investing funds on behalf of clients.
Mr Ganley is the Co Galway-based multi-millionaire who rose to prominence as a key figure in the 'No' to Lisbon campaign, opposing the treaty with well-funded, high-profile campaigns.
He is understood to have made his money in the 1990s with interests in the then frontier economies of central and eastern Europe.
The new Swiss venture is a standalone company and is not part of the Ganley Group of companies.
Russian-born Constantin Gurdgiev is a well-known media pundit and former editor of 'Business and Finance' magazine. He lectures in economics at Trinity College, Dublin.
Mr Gurdgiev will take on a full-time job as director of research at St Columbanus in June. He'll be based in Dublin.