Friday 23 August 2019

IBRC probe dismissed as 'unworkable' after new problems revealed

Denis O'Brien
Denis O'Brien
Kevin Doyle

Kevin Doyle

The Commission of Investigation into IBRC has been described as "essentially unworkable" after its interim report outlined a raft of obstacles.

Judge Brian Cregan has detailed issues with the supply of information from the former Anglo Irish Bank, Department of Finance, Central Bank and Irish Stock Exchange.

And he has asked Taoiseach Enda Kenny to appoint at least one other judge to the inquiry - because of the workload and the fact there are "a small number of transactions in which he has an actual or perceived conflict of interest".

The biggest blockage is around the Commission's "reluctant" conclusion that confidentiality and privilege applies to thousands of documents that are needed as part of the evidence.

"As a result of this conclusion, the Commission is unable to proceed with its investigation without legislative change," the interim report says.

The report outlines that the inquiry is looking at 38 transactions where write-offs of more than €10m were applied by IBRC before its liquidation.

The total amount of these write-offs of loans is approximately €1.9bn.

However, in order to speed up the process, Mr Justice Cregan suggested he first look at six transactions where there were write-offs greater than €100m.

There are a further six transactions where the write-offs are between €50m and €100m.

This approach would mean that the sale of contracting firm Siteserv to Denis O'Brien's Millington, which sparked calls for an investigation, would be dealt with in the first phase of cases.

However, a problem has also arisen in relation to the Siteserv probe because the company has been dissolved. This means that Siteserv does not exist in a corporate form and "will not be in a position to engage with the Commission".

The Commission is considering whether an application should be made to the High Court to restore the company to the Register of Companies.

In relation to the Central Bank, Mr Justice Cregan says information is limited because of European laws.

The Commission also notes that "a central feature" of its terms of reference is that they address transactions, activities and management decisions that resulted in a "capital loss" of €10m or more. However, the term "capital loss" is not defined in the terms of reference.

On foot of the report, the Taoiseach has written to the leaders of the Opposition parties requesting their views.

"The Government reiterates its determination to ensure an effective and independent review of the issues of major public concern which have been raised," the letter stated.

But Social Democrat TD Catherine Murphy said the report suggested the Commission was "essentially unworkable".

"I am horrified that this issue was, in effect, kicked to touch by Government when the public debate was raging and now, five months later, we have no answers and very little realistic prospect of getting answers."

Fianna Fáil finance spokesman Michael McGrath said the Government had "made a shambles of the process".

Irish Independent

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