Bertie's man in DIT's Ireland-China tie-up


Cantillon:Readers of these pages who are also interested in politics may have noticed the article and photographs in Tuesday’s supplement concerning the development of Hainan International Tourism Collage in the Hainan Island province in China.

The scheme is being run by a joint venture involving a local partner and the Dublin Institute of Technology. It is part of an overall project that envisages the construction of a resort and hotel, the latter to be operated by a leading chain, and is part of an overall plan by the Chinese government to transform the island into an international tourist destination.

“The DIT office in Haikou will play an important part in attracting students from this region to come to Dublin to study. There is also significant potential for Irish students coming here to Hainan as part of their studies,” Dominic Dillane, head of the DIT School of Hospitality Management and Tourism, told our Clifford Coonan at the opening ceremony for the office.

Dillane played a walk-on role during the Mahon tribunal’s inquiry into the personal finances of former taoiseach Bertie Ahern, and in particular its inquiries into the account called the B/T account.

Although Ahern and others said the initials on the account stood for “building trust”, the tribunal opted to believe instead that they stood for Bertie and Tim, the latter being Tim Collins, a long-time supporter of Ahern’s. Dillane gave evidence to the tribunal in his role as a treasurer of Ahern’s Dublin Central constituency organisation in which he supported Ahern’s testimony, though only on the basis of what he had been told by Ahern as he himself had not been around when the account had been in operation.

More recently Dillane has accompanied Ahern on trips to China.

The former taoiseach has made several trips there since leaving office, including one in 2011 where he signed a “letter of intent of friendly co-operation and exchanges between Chaoyang District government and the Ireland-China Co-operation Council”. Dillane is a director of the Dublin-based Council for Irish Chinese Co-operation, as is a brother of the former FF TD Cyprian Brady.

When is a client not a client?

Nuggets of curious and intriguing evidence surface from time to time during the court appearances of members of the family of Seán Quinn and yesterday was no different.

As most people know, the family sought to put its international property group beyond the reach of Anglo Irish Bank, which had security over it. The High Court told the family to stop. Meanwhile, some members of the family were put on the payroll of Russian property companies that formed part of the property group, and were given six-figure salaries. The money was lodged to accounts with Ocean Bank in Moscow.

In the High Court his week one of Quinn’s daughters, Ciara Quinn, gave evidence of withdrawing almost €340,000 from her Moscow account over the course of a year, using ATMs here in Ireland. Most of the money, she said, went on legal fees, including payments to the family’s former solicitors, Eversheds. She did not pay the fees herself, she said, but rather gave money to other members of her family so the fees could be paid.

Yesterday Stephen Kelly, husband of Aoife Quinn, gave evidence about his withdrawals from his Moscow account, which had more than €260,000 lodged into it in the year from April 2011. Again most of the withdrawals were from Irish ATMs and were used to pay legal fees.

However when he was asked if he could source receipts for payments to Eversheds from the Dublin law firm – which no longer acts for the Quinns and is in a dispute with the family over fees – the picture grew even more remarkable.

Kelly said he didn’t really understand the various relationships involved, but he believed Dubai-based Senat Legal would have to make any such request of Eversheds. Even though the Dublin firm was “on record” with the courts for him, he didn’t believe he was Evershed’s client. Mr Justice Peter Kelly said that as far as the court was concerned, he had been a client of Eversheds.

It may be that payments to Eversheds were made via Senat. Eversheds has said it was assured bythe family, in writing, that property group resources would not be used for its legal fees. Last night it said it never accepted cash from clients.

The long arm of the lawyers

Allen Overy, “the law firm with global reach”, hasn’t had to stretch too far to get its hands on some of the professional fees that continue to flow from the Republic’s crisis. Early last year, The Irish Times reported that it had received €2.47 million in fees from Nama over the previous two years. This was close to 10 per cent of the €27 million paid out to lawyers by the State asset management agency since it formally began its operations in early 2010.

Figures published earlier this week by this paper showed that that had risen past €2.5 million by the middle of last year.

Another report on the same topic indicated that Allen Overy had been advising the National Treasury Management Agency (NTMA) when it was in the process of establishing Nama in late 2009. The London firm received more than €147,000 for its work at that time.

Allen Overy has other links with the State. It emerged yesterday that it is one of two law firms hired to advise on the sale of Bord Gáis Energy, which is expected to go through this year. Bord Gáis and New Era, the NTMA body that advises on State assets, have each hired their own advisers for this transaction.

New Era has retained Barclays Capital for financial advice and AL Goodbody as its lawyer. Bord Gáis has taken on McCann Fitzgerald and Royal Canadian Bank. Bord Gáis says it is using Allen Overy to get a wider perspective on how potential international bidders for its energy business are likely to engage.

The State company already has a relationship with the firm, as it provides legal advice on energy trading contracts with UK parties. Hiring a UK commercial law firm to advise on UK contracts sounds fair. However, given that both New Era, which is itself an adviser, and Bord Gáis, have hired financial and legal expertise, there seems to be an awful lot of professional advice flying around this deal. Let’s hope some of it is good.



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