Final report on Siteserv sale investigation delivered to Taoiseach

Report comes years after commission established to investigate 2012 sale of building services group to Denis O’Brien-controlled company

The High Court judge who investigated the Siteserv affair has delivered his final report on the disputed transaction to Taoiseach Micheál Martin.

In a statement last evening responding to questions, the Government said Mr Justice Brian Cregan gave his report to the Taoiseach on Friday, July 29th.

No party has sought to challenge the Siteserv findings in the High Court and the judge had signalled that he would finalise the report by August 8th.

“The report has been referred to the Attorney General for consideration, as required by the Commissions of Investigation Act, as to whether publication would prejudice any criminal proceedings in progress or pending,” the Government said.

“Upon receipt of the advice of the Attorney General, the Taoiseach will arrange to publish the report and lay it before the Oireachtas as soon as possible.”

The judge’s report comes seven years after a Commission of Inquiry was established to investigate the 2012 sale of building services group Siteserv to a company controlled by businessman Denis O’Brien. The €45 million sale came as the State-owned Irish Bank Resolution Corporation — the former Anglo Irish Bank — wrote off €119 million of the €150 million that Siteserv owed.

Siteserv report / Should bankers be paid more?

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Irish Times current affairs editor Arthur Beesley has the latest on the Siteserv deal, following a seven-year inquiry into its sale to a company owned by Denis O’Brien.Plus: Markets correspondent Joe Brennan reports on the Government’s efforts to address the thorny issue of banker’s pay, as it seeks the views of the public on continuing pay restrictions across Irish banks which were bailed out during the financial crisis, as part of a review of the future of the sector.

When the judge circulated draft conclusions to witnesses in May, he said the sale based on “misleading and incomplete information” that Siteserv provided to IBRC.

He also criticised a process “below the surface” in which certain events occurred during the sale without IBRC’s knowledge. In addition, he said the transaction was “not concluded in a manner that was reasonable from the perspective of the bank”.

The Government has already extended until the end October the time frame of a commission that was established in June 2015 after political controversy over the deal.

In its reply to questions, Government said the commission “proposes to deal with cost applications” in the period to October and “report on the investigation of the other transactions”.

Siteserv was but the first of 38 separate transactions that were in focus when the inquiry was established, deals involved an aggregate €1.88 billion write-off from IBRC.

However, there is little political appetite to prolong the investigation. In 2020 interim report, the judge acknowledged “significant, if not insuperable, difficulties” in relation to discovery and witness statements linked to 28 borrowers incorporated or resident outside the State.

Arthur Beesley

Arthur Beesley

Arthur Beesley is Current Affairs Editor of The Irish Times