From top: Denis O’Brien; yesterday’s Sunday Business Post
You may recall the Siteserv sale back in 2012.
Denis O’Brien owed Anglo Irish Bank hundreds of millions.
Siteserv owed Anglo Irish Bank €144 million.
Denis bought Siteserv debt-free for €45 million.
You will find a detailed background to the deal here.
Since then a Commission of Investigation, led by High Court judge Brian Cregan, has been tasked with investigating the sale of Siteserv to Denis O’Brien, and other matters.
Earlier this year Catherine Murphy, of the Soc Dems, submitted a 300-page statement to the Commission detailing her research into the sale.
The commission has since written to Ms Murphy saying, if she doesn’t reveal her sources, “it may not be possible to advance some of the issues raised” by her.
Further to this…
In the Sunday Business Post.
Tom Lyons reported that an anonymous email sent to Taoiseach Enda Kenny and others – including the then Financial Regulator Matthew Elderfield, Fianna Fáil leader Micheal Martin and Maurice Keane, a non-executive director of IBRC – is to be investigated by the commission.
Mr Lyons reported:
A special email set up by an unknown party used an address called firstname.lastname@example.org on April 5, 2012 at 12.20pm to make various allegations about the controversial sale of the business by IBRC to O’Brien a few weeks earlier.
The contents of the “DOB” email were previously posted online in the comments section of the website Broadsheet.ie but its contents received little attention at the time.
The comment was left under a Broadsheet post about the Siteserv sale on April 5, 2012, a few minutes after the email was sent to Mr Kenny.
Regular entertaining of Anglo senior management by Denis O’Brien has always been a feature, but that has increased significantly since Mike Aynsley, Tom Hunnersen and DOB’s personal friend Richard Woodhouse have joined the Bank.
A few weeks ago DOB and his wife were seen on the town with Mike Anysley, Tom Hunnersen and their wives. Denis while he is in Ireland is driven around by Mike Coughlan (a former Anglo employee) and is a regular visitor to the Anglo offices in Burlington Road, and is down there this morning having a one to one with Mike.
Most worrying is that the management of DOB has been moved under Richard Woodhouse, a close personal friend of Denis. Then the Siteserv account is also moved over to Richard Woodhouse’s management.
Interesting DOB’s initial bid for Siteserve was too low to be included in the 2nd round of bidders and he was initially not included in the 2nd round. DOB was not the highest final bidder, but IBRC asked for a letter to be produced that showed that DOB’s lower bid was the best bid.
Another account that has been moved to Richard is the personal borrowings of Brian Harvey and DOB has promised (in support for supporting the DOB bid) is that he will arrange for Anglo to do a deal on Harvey’s debt. The independent consultant to Siteserv is a long friend of DOB (worked on Boundary – see below) and is a also a heavily indebted borrower of Anglo who DOB has also promised to sort out.
Then the management of the Niall McFadden/Boundary Capital relationship is also moved to Richard Woodhouse. Anglo now looking to sell the debt of Niall McFadden (a close friend of Denis O’Brien) to DOB for a fraction of the original amount to allow Niall McFadden fraustrate National Irish Bank’s bid to secure bankruptcy.
More worryingly, IBRC (when the case was being managed by the Personal Lending team) initially decides that forebearance is the best option in the management of the Tony O’Reilly relationship (a bitter foe of DOB). Then suprisingly, the case management is moved to Richard Woodhouse, and the new team decides to take a more agressive stance on O’Reilly with the case expected to go legal shortly.
Further to this…
Mr Lyons also reported yesterday:
An internal review, however, was carried out at the time by IBRC into the allegations made in the email in a project code-named Rain.
A position paper was prepared to help the bank respond to questions relating to it. This was circulated both inside and outside the bank in response to queries about the email, which was in circulation between senior politicians, civil servants and journalists.
IBRC concluded that allegations in the email were either false or a misinterpretation of events. James Shaw, group operations in IBRC, carried out a review of the bank’s computer systems which failed to find who sent the email.
Kroll, the corporate investigations firm best known for tracking the fortunes of Saddam Hussein and the late Haitian dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier, was then appointed by the bank to investigate.
The bank suspected an employee of the bank was behind the email, as parts of it described the movements of O’Brien and IBRC chief executive Mike Aynsley. Kroll however was unable to determine where the email originated from.
…IBRC produced a paper in response to this allegation which says:
“It is in the public domain that Mr Denis O’Brien is a significant borrower of the bank. It is also in the public domain that his outstanding loans are performing and have been significantly reduced by way of repayments over the past two years. As with any material borrowing relationship in the bank, Mike Aynsley, group chief executive, is closely involved in if, how and when these outstanding loans are repaid. Mr Aynsley has met with Mr O’Brien on a number of occasions in this capacity.”
The O’Brien dinner referred to in the email was not attended by Hunersen – but was attended by Aynsley and Richard Woodhouse (an IBRC executive).
Former minister for justice Michael McDowell later mentioned this dinner in a speech in the Seanad in July 2016.
Aynsley responded to McDowell by saying:
“The anonymous blog that Mr McDowell referred to is just plain wrong on just about everything it raises, except for the fact that there was a dinner,” Aynsley said.
The purpose of the dinner was to mark Aynsley defeating O’Brien in a charity weight-loss competition. Alan Dukes, the chairman of IBRC, he said was aware of the matter and had no objection.
Concerning Anglo’s ‘hard-line on Tony O’Reilly, IBRC, in its position paper, stated:
“There is no evidence to show that IBRC took an unnecessarily hard line with O’Reilly. The bank instead pursued a strategy of trying to reach a consensual solution with him.”
Anonymity and allegations: the IBRC Commission of Investigation (Sunday Business Post)