Belfast Telegraph

Anglo Irish Bank asset sale probe 'will take at least two years'

An investigation into 1.3 billion euro in write-off from Anglo Irish Bank asset sales will take at least two years, the head of the inquiry has warned.

Judge Brian Cregan asked for new laws to cover confidentiality issues and a second judge to help with the workload and avoid conflicts of interest.

But he warned the Government that even then it will take 18 months to two years to assess the first 12 transactions - six deals involving write-downs of 100 million euro or more and six deals with write-downs worth more than 50m euro.

"It is not possible to make an accurate a ssessment of the time required to complete the investigation," the judge has said.

The Cregan inquiry is examining 38 sales of assets from the books of Anglo and under its rebrand, the Irish Bank Resolution Corporation (IBRC).

It was sparked by repeated questions, mainly from Social Democrat TD Catherine Murphy, over billionaire Denis O'Brien's purchase of Siteserv from the nationalised bank which involved a writedown of 119 million euro.

There have been claims that Siteserv shareholders earned five million euro in the deal despite the company being on the verge of going bust, and that the winning bid was not the highest on the table.

The inquiry has stalled as KPMG, special liquidators for IBRC, claimed confidentiality over all financial documents sought by the judge and privilege over some other documents.

The Department of Finance claimed the same over some of their documents.

In his interim report, Judge Cregan said he will not be able to proceed with the inquiry without legislative change on these issues.

He also warned about a "complex" secrecy clause which, under European law, prevents the Central Bank from disclosing certain documents.

Judge Cregan advised that it new domestic legislation will not be enough to over-ride this and suggested the inquiry should examine communications between the Central Bank and IBRC as part of its investigations.

He also revealed a small number of " actual or potential conflicts of interest" in the 38 asset sales which could be covered by appointing a second judge to the commission.

Elsewhere, new laws to give the judge access to records of trades held by the Irish Stock Exchange have also been requested.

The inquiry covers sales of assets or loans by Anglo from the time from the rogue lender's nationalisation on January 21 2009 until when the liquidation was ordered in February 2013.

Judge Cregan said at least one other person should be appointed to the commission of inquiry " as soon as possible".

"As each transaction is a separate investigation, it would be possible for each member of the c ommission to investigate transactions separately and simultaneously. This would substantially reduce the duration of the investigation," he said.

Judge Cregan said his inquiry would focus on the 12 transactions with the largest write-downs first, at his discretion.

He said they involved 1.3 billion euro of write-downs, more than two thirds of the value of write-downs on the 38 asset sales which are under investigation.

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