Belfast Telegraph

Kenny defends Anglo wind-down probe

Taoiseach Enda Kenny has defended the belated decision to launch a full-scale probe of multimillion losses during the wind-down of the former Anglo Irish Bank.

After days of silence over allegations of favourable deals for some clients of the Irish Bank Resolution Corporation, Mr Kenny insisted there was no evidence of wrongdoing but a judge-led inquiry was needed.

The effective U-turn was taken last night despite parliamentary questions being asked for months over the sale of the Siteserv company from the old Anglo books to billionaire Denis O'Brien.

Documents released by the Department of Finance - only discovered and released at the same time as the announcement of the inquiry - revealed that the sale went through in March 2012 with a debt write-off worth 119 million euro. The figure was previously thought to be about 100 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.

It will be one of 40 sales of assets or loans by Anglo to be examined under a commission of inquiry from the rogue lender's nationalisation on January 21 2009 until when the liquidation was ordered in February 2013.

"I think it's the right thing to do," the Taoiseach said.

All deals which lost the state more than 10 million euro are being investigated, along with potential insider share trading and rescheduled loans or reduced interest rates which may have cost four million euro or more.

Allegations on that front were finally put on the public record by Independent TD Catherine Murphy, who used parliamentary privilege in the Dail.

Mr Kenny's comments followed a withering attack on the coalition Government by anti-corruption agency Transparency International (TI) Ireland.

Chief executive John Devitt said the reversal smacks of the same approach to allegations of Garda wrongdoing which dogged the force for more than year before a judge was appointed last year to investigate.

"History seems to have repeated itself in the space of 12 months," Mr Devitt said.

The inquiry has been given until the end of the year to report back with one minister suggesting that it may be complete before the next general election.

Amid Mr Kenny's first comments on the scandal in over a week, both Fianna Fail and Sinn Fein claimed the public were being misled on issues related to Anglo deals.

Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin said: "The way this continues to be handled falls well short of what the public expect.

"The Government clearly hope that they have drawn a line under the crisis with the announcement of a commission of inquiry. But the efforts we have seen to mislead the public have actually raised yet more questions to which we need answers."

Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams claimed the Government was trying to distance itself from the allegations that have dogged the deals done by the IBRC.

"The Commission must be allowed to review transactions, activities and management decisions involving KPMG in its role as special liquidator," he said.

"The 10 million euro threshold which has been set for capital loss is too high and should be reduced to one million euro."

Mr Adams attacked the end of year deadline for the inquiry.

"There is also understandable concern that there may be an election called between now and December 31. The investigation should be tasked to produce its report no later than October 31 2015," he said.


From Belfast Telegraph