Tag Archives: Siteserv

From top: Siteserv now Actavo offices in west Dublin; David McCourt

Yesterday.

In The Sunday Times, Justice McCarthy reported:

David McCourt, whose company Granahan McCourt is the state’s preferred bidder for the €5bn national broadband plan, has also been contacted as a witness by Cregan [Commission [looking into the sale of Siteserv to Denis O’Brien].

Granahan McCourt was involved in a bid to buy Siteserv subsidiary companies in 2012 along with the Gores Group, a Californian private equity company.

“Several months ago, the Cregan Commission sent a list of questions, which Granahan McCourt replied to in full to assist with their investigation,” the company said. “[We were] not the bidder in the sale process — it was led by the Gores Group, which we understand also assisted with the investigation.”

Meanwhile…

Karl Brophy, a public relations consultant, has been called as a witness by the Siteserv inquiry to answer allegations made by Denis O’Brien that he leaked the businessman’s banking information to politicians and journalists.

Brophy, the chief executive of Red Flag, a PR and lobbying company, has told the Cregan Commission that he did not give anyone information about O’Brien’s dealings with IBRC and never had the information to give.

READ IN FULL: Red Flag boss Karl Brophy to face Siteserv inquiry over Denis O’Brien leak allegations (Justine McCarthy, The Sunday Times)

Previously: What’s Another Year

Request from Judge Brian Cregan for an extension for his inquiry into the sale of Siteserv; Social Democrats TD Catherine Murphy; businessman Denis O’Brien

Yesterday, The Sunday Business Post, reported that Taoiseach Leo Varadkar is refusing to give Judge Brian Cregan a 15-month extension for his inquiry into the sale of Siteserv and that he wants to know what the commission has found to date before doing so.

Judge Cregan’s request for an extension last week follows three other similar requests since the commission of investigation was set up in 2015.

The 2012 sale of Siteserv, to a company controlled by Denis O’Brien, Millington, is just one of 38 debt write-offs involving IBRC, formally Anglo Irish Bank, that Judge Cregan is tasked with examining. Siteserv is now called Actavo.

Hugh O’Connell reported:

The possibility of the commission of investigation, which is examining Siteserv and other IBRC loans sales, being scrapped entirely was raised at a meeting between the Taoiseach and opposition party leaders earlier this month. There are mounting concerns over the several missed deadlines and rising costs previously estimated at up to €25 million.

A Dáil vote would be needed to scrap the inquiry completely.

Social Democrat TD Catherine Murphy said:

“If we simply accept that the task of investigating Siteserv is too big and complicated, then essentially we are being asked to accept that there is an entire cohort of people who are too big to touch. I cannot and will not accept that.”

Speaking to The Irish Times, Ms Murphy said:

What concerns me about the commission is that the format it is following is akin to a tribunal of inquiry rather than a private investigation. There seems to be a highly legalistic approach.

That is not what was expected. I myself said I did not want it to go on forever when it was set up. It will be five years. To say I am disappointed is probably an understatement.”

Varadkar is refusing to extend the Siteserv inquiry deadline (Hugh O’Connell, Sunday Business Post)

TD who raised issue of Siteserv sale to Dáil criticises inquiry’s progress (Harry McGee, The Irish Times)

Previously: Inactavo

From top: Siteserv now Actavo offices in west Dublin; Denis O’Brien

In 2015, a Commission of Investigation into debt write-offs by IBRC, formerly Anglo Irish Bank, was set up.

It was tasked with examining 38 transactions which cost the State €10million or more each – or a total debt write-down of €1.88 billion.

This morning, Tom McEnaney, of Times Ireland, reports that the commission is still only examining just one of these transactions – the 2012 sale of Siteserv to a company controlled by Denis O’Brien, Millington.

The commission wants an extension to complete its investigation on the Siteserv deal by June 2020.

It was originally meant to report by the end of 2015, this was extended until April 2016, then until the end of 2017, and then until the end of 2018.

Mr McEnaney also reported that it’s his understanding that the Taoiseach Leo Varadkar intends on consulting opposition parties on the future of the entire commission.

Asked about the significance of this intention, Mr McEnaney told RTÉ’s Morning Ireland this morning:

“I think it holds in question the future of a commission that doesn’t seem to be working the way we all expected it to be working into allegations where there’s been never any prima facie case established.

“So, I think, obviously he [Varadkar] hasn’t automatically granted yet another extension and so it must put into question whether the commission will continue to operate, or at least continue to operate in the way it has been thus far.”

Continue reading

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…

Yesterday.

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 whistlebx@live.ie 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.

‘Whistbleblower’ stated:

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)

Social Democrat TD Catherine Murphy speaking about the sale of Siteserv in the Dáil on May 6, 2015

Yesterday.

In the Sunday Business Post.

Tom Lyons reported that the Commission of Investigation tasked with investigating the sale of Siteserv to Denis O’Brien, and other matters – which is being led by High Court judge Brian Cregan – has told Social Democrat TD Catherine Murphy that if she doesn’t reveal her sources, “it may not be possible to advance some of the issues raised” by her.

Mr Lyons reported:

The Commission wrote to Murphy earlier this month in relation to her 300-page witness statement, much of which it said appeared to be “dependent upon information and views supplied to you by unidentified persons”.

It said that the allegations in her statement and accompanying documentation appear to be based on confidential banking information about named individuals that “may have serious implications for the good name and reputation of the person or persons mentioned.”

The Commission said it was “of the view that, if such allegations, information and views are to be admitted into evidence, it will be necessary in the interests of fair procedures, and in order to protect the constitutional and person rights of the persons named, that the identity of the sources of such information and views should, in the first instance, be disclosed to the Commission.”

It said it would then consider whether such allegations, information and views should be admitted into evidence, and whether the identity of the source should be disclosed to witnesses or potential witnesses “bearing in mind the right of a witness to confront his or her accuser, where serious allegations are made against him or her.”

The Commission requested Murphy disclose the source or sources of 23 allegations made in her 300-page witness statement to the Commission as well as furnish it with six emails without redacting the name of their sender.

These allegations relate to O’Brien, Brian Harvey, the then chief executive of Siteserv, Mike Aynsley, the chief executive of IBRC and Richard Woodhouse, a senior executive of IBRC, among others.

…“The Commission is appreciative of the assistance you have provided it to date,” it said. “However, if and to the extent that sources are not disclosed and / or unredacted documents are not made available to the Commission, whether based on a claim of parliamentary privilege or otherwise, it may not be possible to advance some of the issues raised by you.”

Yesterday.

On Kildare FM, Ms Murphy said:

“Yes, I received a letter from Justice Brian Cregan during the week, I think it was Wednesday. I will be taken, and have taken and will take further advice before responding in detail. Essentially, I’ve given a commitment to people who came to me with information that that would be treated in confidence. I gave them absolute assurance that that would be the case and I’ll respect that. I feel duty-bound to respect that.”

Siteserv sale probe: Murphy told she may have to reveal sources (Sunday Business Post)

North Kildare TD Catherine Murphy Intends To Stand By Siteserv Sources (Kildare FM)

Previously: [REDACTED]’s 1.25% Interest Rate

Bringing The House Down

catherinemurphy

Catherine Murphy, Social Democrats TD at the Newsocracy2 conference

This morning.

The Writers Museum, Parnell Square, Dublin

At the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF) Newsocracy2 conference.

Catherine Murphy, co-leader of the Social Democrats, said:

It’s a common misconception that my interest in media ownership issues arose because of what has now become the almost infamous weekend of so-called ‘constitutional crisis’ following by a speech in the Dáil regarding the Siteserv controversy

In fact in 2012 one of the first tasks I set my then new assistant was to write a Private Members Motion on media ownership. Now due to arrangements within the Technical Group that Motion never got the chance to be debated in the Dáil, it was a significant piece of work undertaken by my office and one that we have continued to pursue over the years.

Ironically my Siteserv investigations actually had no root whatsoever in the area of media control or ownership.  I had started questioning how the Irish water contracts had been awarded and that led me down a rabbit hole within which the two issues overlapped.

I first raised concerns regarding the contracts and the personalities involved back in September 2014 and continued asking questions throughout late 2014,  the Irish people had  become owners of a bank which cost them upwards of €30bn and the distressed assets were to be sold, I felt my role was to make sure those distressed assets were disposed of for the maximum possible amount,  in other words I was acting in the public interest in pursuing those contracts.

In April 2015  the Sunday Times broke the story on the front page.   During this time I was confronted with various cease and desist letters from Mr Denis O’Brien’s camp.

Once the Sunday Times story ran it became a snowball and my questions and FOI’s made it clear to me at least that a serious investigation into the sale was warranted.

This led to a ridiculous scenario proposed by Government that KPMG – who had acted as advisers on the sale of Siteserv – would then be charged with reviewing the sales process.

I felt strongly this was not the appropriate measure and so in May 2015 my team and I complied a piece of legislation which would give the C&AG the powers to undertake the investigation. In order to introduce that Bill I had to make a 5 minute speech explaining what the Bill was about and why I was presenting it.

In that speech I outlined my concerns regarding the sales process and why I wanted a thorough investigation.

I could not have predicted the fallout of that speech. All media outlets immediately reported everything I had said but within hours everything had changed. The Irish Times had pulled their report from their website. The Journal.ie had removed it from their site and RTÉ – the National Broadcaster was reporting the fact that they could not report the contents of my speech.

At the same time RTÉ  was in court and subject to a case involving an injunction by Mr Denis O’Brien,  who is a serial litigant,  I was not party to those proceedings and therefore could not have been aware there was crossover between the two.  The Judge had issued a blanket ban on reporting the subject matter in this case.

The only media outlet which kept the story live was the small independent online news site Broadsheet.ie. Fundamentally the issue of parliamentary privilege was side-lined by all apart from Broadsheet. A speech, given by an elected representative on the floor of the National Parliament was being erased from the news cycle and the public record was effectively being tampered with.

Citizens who rely on mainstream media were left uniformed on a matter that had been raised in THEIR parliament. It was the ultimate disservice to citizens by the media upon which they are forced to rely. One powerful individual had effectively controlled the media by the mere threat of legal action.

Unbelievably this same individual also happened to be the largest private media owner in this country. (and still is!)

A weekend of confusion ensued when legal departments in newsrooms up and down the country refused to trust Article 15:13 of the Constitution when faced with a threat from this powerful individual.

Article 15:13 enshrines the concept pf parliamentary privilege and the reporting of any utterances made in the Oireachtas. O’Brien’s threat had challenged that concept and newsrooms had been chilled into acquiescence.

There were a few instances of people printing the speech and giving it out on the streets.  Social Media was widely used to share it,  at all times it remained on the Oireachtas/Parliament Website.

Broadsheet held out and on Sunday, the Sunday times ran the story and my speech in full. Others eventually followed suit but not before an entire weekend of confusion had ensued.

The reverberations of that weekend are still being felt with journalists and politicians acutely aware of how real the threat to our press freedom is and how a gagging order on the national parliament very nearly came to pass.

The following Tuesday the judge in the injunction case against RTE clarified that the injunction could not have applied to a speech made in the Dail.

The incident reinvigorated by interest in what I see as a fundamental pillar of democracy – a free and open media, capable of speaking truth to power and objectively challenging vested interests without fear or deference.

When we are faced with a situation where any powerful individual not only owns the significant majority of our print & broadcast media but also exerts such a severe chilling effect on titles not under his control then it is very clear we have a serious problem.

That is why today the Social Democrats will introduce the Media Ownership Bill 2017 into the Dáil and host a debate in Private Members Time on February 8th. The Bill sets out to retroactively apply the guideline which states that anything above a 20% shareholding in a media business may not be in the public interest.

Change is long overdue and we feel strongly that our Bill is a vital first step  in bringing about change in this area.

FIGHT!

Yesterday: Free Tomorrow?

000885bf-531

Screen Shot 2016-07-20 at 12.18.25tom hunerson

From top: IBRC logo; Senator Michael McDowell; Tom Hunerson

Yesterday.

In the Seanad.

Senators discussed the Commission of Investigation (Irish Bank Resolution Corporation) Bill 2016 which is at its second stage.

This is the Cregan commission which is examining sales of assets by State-owned IBRC, including the sale of Siteserv to Denis O’Brien €45.4million, while Siteserv owed Anglo €150million.

During the Seanad discussion, Senator Michael McDowell said the following:

As Senator Diarmuid Wilson stated, this commission of investigation arises mainly out of the Siteserv controversy. It is notable that on 25 April 2015, the former chairman of IBRC [Alan Dukes] stated that the board had rejected a Department of Finance proposal to appoint a senior civil servant to the board on the basis that such an appointment would be unsuitable.

In the same article in The Irish Times, he stated a Mr Woodhouse had been kept out of discussions regarding Siteserv because he personally handled Mr Denis O’Brien’s relationship with IBRC. He stated a different executive in IBRC, Mr Tom Hunersen, had handled the Siteserv transaction.

This is worrying because, three years earlier, a posting (in comments) appeared on the broadsheet.ie website suggesting Mr Aynsley, Mr Hunersen and Mr O’Brien were socialising together at the time when the transaction in case was taking place.

It is also worrying that Mr O’Brien was reported in 2014 by The Irish Times as having made a major investment in a Massachusetts-based IT firm in which Mr Hunersen was one of the moving parties. The former chairman of the IBRC claimed Mr Woodhouse had stepped aside from this transaction.

He seems to have re-emerged recently in the context of the story in The Irish Times that many Members of this House read last week. Again, the question arises as to whether there is a connection between him and Mr O’Brien.

A more fundamental question arises as to who is organising the campaign of intelligence-gathering of Mr [Mark[ Hollingsworth, the so-called journalist engaged in coming to Members of this House, among others, and passing himself off as one seeking to identify the source of leaks about Mr O’Brien’s dealings with IBRC. These are very serious issues.

This matter is particularly relevant because, according to the story in The Irish Times, a major British security firm was the recipient of the material collected by Mr. Hollingsworth in Dublin.

We heard later, according to evidence given in the High Court, that a USB key appeared on the desk of Mr O’Brien and that he, for the first time, discovered the material that Mr Hollingsworth was privy to in Dublin.

The use of an English security firm in this respect is not a new phenomenon in Ireland. We should remember also that there was elaborate industrial espionage and surveillance in the context of the takeover of the Independent News & Media group at the time between the O’Reilly interests and the O’Brien interests, if I may use that term.

In that case, newspaper reports indicated that 11 operatives operating from a Dublin hotel were engaged in fairly extensive surveillance of the then managing director of Independent News & Media and that it was eventually determined that an English espionage firm or intelligence-gathering firm called Esoteric lay behind that.

Surprisingly, Independent News & Media, which later came under the control of Mr O’Brien, largely speaking, has been unable to work out who commissioned that investigation.

I am also worried in another respect. It was reported in the media that Irish Water had concluded an extensive contract with a company in the Isle of Man [Another 9 or A9 Business Recovery Services] chaired by Mr Leslie Buckley and, in which, Mr Denis O’Brien was a large investor. He is described in its publicity material as a leading Irish entrepreneur.

The function of that company is to advise Irish Water against the hacking of its sites. It appears the main business of this company in the Isle of Man, which is owned by Mr O’Brien and chaired by Mr Buckley, an associate of Mr. O’Brien, concerns computer security and countermeasures against computer hacking.

Although no particular figure was put on the computer security services of Irish Water, it is interesting that it was suggested in the media at the time that, over five years, €1.2 million was spent on this kind of activity on the part of Irish Water.

One must bear in mind also that at least one of the newspapers controlled by Mr O’Brien has, since the emergence of the dispute about water charges and the legislation we considered in this House some days ago, run a fairly heavy campaign, with many editorials and articles, on the subject of Irish Water. This is a serious matter.

I will finish on two points. Last week in a different context, although Mr O’Brien had a walk-on part in it, the Ceann Comhairle, as Chairman of Dáil Éireann, publicly queried whether it would be necessary to introduce a system of fines to strengthen the powers of the Chair to prevent the abuse of Dáil privilege.

This House has its own Standing Orders, its independence and its own Committee on Procedure and Privileges.

As a member of that committee, I do not believe Members of this House are disposed to abusing their privilege at all, nor do I believe the use of financial penalties to preserve the privacy of important people the Irish political and economic environment should be permitted by this House. I do not believe we should go down that road. It is for the other House to make up its own mind on fines for its Members.

We must remember that these Houses are the defendants in a court action brought by Mr O’Brien. He has sued the institutions of this State. He has also sued individual Members of these Houses on occasion and has threatened to do so on many more occasions.

Free speech is very important. As far as I am concerned, the Cregan commission is dealing with just one set of issues, the activities of the IBRC, only some of which involve Mr O’Brien or companies connected with him.

However, there are other major issues to be borne in mind arising from the Moriarty report, which found Mr O’Brien had indirectly channelled the guts of €1 million to former [Fine Gael] Minister, Deputy [Michael] Lowry, after the awarding of a telecommunications licence to him.

It found that elaborate efforts to deceive the Moriarty tribunal had been made, including the falsification of letters to cover up the involvement of the relevant parties. I wish all speed and every success to the Cregan commission.

I welcome this legislation. Members have an obligation to be fair but not to be entirely impartial but it is important that these issues be dealt with in a process that is fair and impartial and, above all, has the means of establishing the truth, because the Irish people do deserve the truth.

Transcript via Oireachtas.ie

Previously: The Journalist Who Came In From The Cold

Timeline To A Killing

90378185-1irishstockexchangedoor

 

The Irish Stock Exchange referred a memo last year to the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement (ODCE) about the “suspicious nature” of shares traded in Siteserv prior to the company’s sale in 2012.

An annual report by the Irish Stock Exchange (ISE) on its activities for 2015 — sent last week to Mary Mitchell-O’Connor, the minister for jobs, enterprise and innovation — notes that the memo was sent to the ODCE “given the suspicious nature of certain dealings” that emerged last year.

It is understood that this is a reference to a sharp rise in share activity in Siteserv in the month before the state-owned bank IBRC received the first bids for the firm in what was supposed to be a confidential sales process.

Last year The Sunday Times revealed how 6.4m shares in Siteserv changed hands in November 2011, despite the shares being worth only between 2c and 3.5c each. Between January and October 2011, only 121,000 shares had changed hands.

The first media report that Siteserv was for sale was published in January 2012

…A commission of investigation into IBRC, which has been asked to investigate the share activity, has also been frustrated in its attempts to uncover the owners of the nominee accounts that bought shares prior to the sale of Siteserv.

It has said legislation must be enacted to let it investigate the share activity in advance of the sale to Millington.

ISE flagged ‘suspicious’ Siteserv activity (Colin Coyle, Sunday Times)

Previously: Timeline To A Killing

Rollingnews