Lenihan accuses Ganley on fund

Mon, Sep 28, 2009, 01:00

Minister for Finance Brian Lenihan has described as “disturbing” reports that a London-based hedge fund, which made millions by short-selling British and Irish bank shares during the credit crunch, is a financial backer of the anti-Lisbon group Libertas.

Speaking at a press briefing in Dublin today, Mr Lenihan said he found it curious that a hedge fund would have a direct interest in “goings-on in Ireland”.

“I find it disturbing that the only person that is publicly disclosed as funding [the Libertas] campaign is a hedge fund.”

Mr Lenihan said he did not think that such an organisation would have “the best interests of Ireland at heart”.

The latest Electoral Commission declarations in Britain show London-based hedge fund manager Crispin Odey gave STG£18,000  to "Pro Democracy: Libertas.eu".

The commission reveals Mr Odey gave £3,000 in cash to Libertas at the end of May this year, just prior to the European parliamentary elections. The hedge fund manager also contributed just under £15,000 worth of printing and distribution services to the party, the commission’s report shows.

Mr Odey’s Odey Asset Management group made huge profits during the credit crunch by short-selling shares in several British and Irish banks.

But Libertas founder Declan Ganley today vehemently denied Libertas had received financial support from any hedge fund in the current Lisbon campaign, saying the accusation was “absolutely not true”.

He said Mr Lenihan’s suggestions were “a distraction” designed to divert the debate away from what he said was the fact that there was nothing in the Lisbon Treaty to create jobs or help recovery.

“It was quite stunning that this man, Brian Lenihan, who has chickened out of a debate with me…will roll out this nonsense rather than talk about the disaster that the Lisbon Treaty would be for the Irish economy," Mr Ganley added.

In a statement, Libertas said: “This is a stupid, laughable smear, especially coming from a party that took hundreds of thousands from the developers, bankers, and crooks who’ve led us into this mess. Hypocrisy is not a strong enough word.”

With just four days to go to the referendum, Mr Lenihan warned that a No vote on Friday would break international confidence in Ireland. “This is very clear from all of the testimony we have from people who actually invest and create real sustainable jobs,” he said.