Saturday 21 April 2018

Reports on toxic Nationwide sent on to the gardai

Tom Lyons

But findings can't be published for legal reasons

Reports into the questionable lending practices and corporate governance failings of Irish Nationwide, the toxic building society that cost the taxpayer €5.4bn, have been passed on to the gardai.

Minister for Finance Michael Noonan revealed for the first time last week that two reports by McCann FitzGerald, the law firm, and Ernst & Young, the accountants, into the society had been sent not only to the Central Bank but also to the gardai.

In a statement, Mr Noonan said: "Copies of all of these reports have been provided to the Central Bank under the terms of a protocol for limited disclosure agreed between the parties to preserve legal privilege over the material."

"A report was also been provided to the Garda in this regard," he added.

Mr Noonan said he was unable to publish the two reports even in a redacted form because IBRC, which took over the society last year when it was merged with Anglo Irish Bank, had been advised against it.

"Given the ongoing nature of the investigations by the authorities as well as internal considerations within the bank, that the reports cannot legally be published at this time," Mr Noonan said.

"Publication of the reports may be considered when the Central Bank proceedings are concluded, when any garda investigation has been finalised (or any proceedings arising from such investigation concluded) and any civil proceedings contemplated by IBRC either concluded or otherwise disposed of," Mr Noonan added.

Michael Fingleton, the once-powerful boss of the bust society, did not return calls for comment last week.

Both the McCann FitzGerald and E&Y reports raise a number of concerns about the society both historically and in its final months before it was nationalised in 2010.

Fingleton has been largely silent since his retirement with a multimillion pension and a €1m bonus.

However, in December 2011, he gave evidence at an Employment Appeals Tribunal of a former society employee where he rejected as a "slander and absolutely untrue" any suggestion he ran the society improperly.

"I ran the society in the best possible manner compatible with the requirements and obligations of the board," he told the tribunal.

"Also the suggestion that I gave loans to some customers that they would not have to pay back is a totally outrageous accusation and totally untrue."

Since stepping down as boss of the society, Fingleton has become embroiled in a probe by Montenegro's Supreme State Prosecutor (SSP), the equivalent of Ireland's DPP, into his use of offshore bank accounts used to finance a hotel and leisure facility in the Eastern European country.

The SPP has raised concerns about a number of cash transfers associated with the deal which it is continuing to investigate in an attempt to determine if there was any wrongdoing. Fingleton has not responded to attempts to contact him to discuss this deal.

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