Sunday 19 January 2020

Judge gets Siteserv documents but probe still stalled

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Shane Phelan

Shane Phelan

The High Court judge heading up the commission of investigation into transactions at the former Anglo Irish Bank has taken possession of over 46 folders of documents relating to contracting firm Siteserv.

These include a copy of the share sale agreement between Siteserv and billionaire Denis O’Brien’s Millington, in a deal which saw the Irish Bank Resolution Corporation (IBRC) write off €119m.

However, Mr Justice Brian Cregan said he was still unable to proceed with his inquiry into the Siteserv sale and other transactions due to issues of confidentiality surrounding certain documents.

In his second interim report since being appointed to investigate IBRC transactions involving a loss of €10m or more, he reiterated concerns he would be unable to receive many documents into evidence unless there is a change to legislation.

In the report, he outlined many issues previously raised before.

The documents at issue were submitted to the commission by the special liquidators of IBRC and by the Department of Finance. Both asserted a duty of confidentiality over the documents.

Mr Justice Cregan said issues relating to legal professional privilege would have to be overcome for him to progress the inquiry.

Although not stated in the report, it is understood the confidentiality concerns mean the judge cannot distribute certain documents to other parties involved in the inquiry.

The outgoing Government had been examining the need for legislation after Mr Justice Cregan warned last year he did not have adequate powers to write a report of any substance.

He disclosed that Taoiseach Enda Kenny had written to him last December stating work was ongoing on “certain legislative and other issues”. He said Mr Kenny stated his belief that the commission could continue with preparatory work in the meantime.

The interim report said 38 transactions had been identified for examination, six of which involved write-offs greater than €100m. The total sum  of the write-offs under scrutiny amounts to €1.881bn.

Mr Justice Cregan noted the Siteserv deal had been “the focus of significant public concern”. He said that despite the obstacles it faced, the commission believes it is appropriate to continue with preliminary and preparatory work on the Siteserv transaction.

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