Government 'determined' to investigate wrongdoing at Anglo

 

The Minister for Finance Brian Lenihan said this evening that the Government was determined to get to the bottom of wrongdoing and misconduct in Anglo Irish Bank

In his first response to today's publication of the annual report of the bank Mr Lenihan said that the details of the report showed why the bank was nationalised.

"[The Government needed to] ensure we got to the bottom of the wrongdoing, cleaned up this bank and restored Ireland's damaged reputation in international circles because of the misconduct that has taken place in this bank," said Mr Lenihan, who was speaking to reporters outside Government buildings this evening.

However, the two main opposition parties said the report disclosed few new details and would not allay the anger and frustration felt by the public. Both Fine Gael and Labour also repeated their demands that the Government name the 10 investors who received loans from the bank to buy its own shares.

Fine Gael deputy leader Richard Bruton said the report had provided no answers. "There are not explanations in the report as to why this happened and as to why the taxpayer is left as the patsy," he said.

And Labour deputy leader Joan Burton said the report was only a work in progress. She said the taxpayer was no wiser as to the structure of the deal for the 10 investors, that has left a €300 million deficit for the taxpayer. She also said that the newly nationalised bank should have spelled out the amounts and recipients of the €179 in directors' loans.

Meanwhilke, Sinn Féin said tonight that the Government must appoint an independent inspector to discover the true scale of bad debts in Irish banks, and jail any bankers found guilty of corruption.

"The golden circle involved in dubious investment at Anglo Irish must be named and shamed. They are not heroes. There was no patriotism in their actions. Fianna Fail and the Greens must stop protecting the Anglo circle," said Mary Lou McDonald during a speech at the party ardfheis in Dublin this evening.

The reaction came ahead of a heavily redacted summary of the Government-commissioned PriceWaterhouseCoopers report into the credit risks associated with Anglo Irish Bank. That is expected to be published later tonight.

In his comments on the Anglo Irish Bank report, Mr Lenihan emphasised that the Government was precluded from naming the 10 investors who were involved in the transaction that took place to buy up shares being unwound by businessman Sean Quinn.

"That particular information is held by the Financial Regulator. It's also in the possession of lawyers," said Mr Lenihan.

"That information cannot be given to me or the government. It is subject to banker-customer confidentiality at this stage.

"At this stage it will prejudice the successful prosecution of any of those involved and it would also be a breach of the confidentiality owed to a customer if their names are released.

"I have been advised in that regard by the Attorney General," he said.

Mr Lenihan also sharply criticised Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny for what he described as the "highly irresponsible" approach he had taken on this matter of the identity of the 10 investors.

"It's essential that all parties work together to promote Ireland and a positive view of Ireland around the world.

"We have problems but there should not be questions or allegations about alleged political conspiracies made on the floor of the house and under parliamentary privilege as happened last week.

"I can assure the Irish public that those involved in any wrongdoing will be brought to justice, that these matters will be fully investigated, and every care will be taken to ensure that the full rigours of the law, both civil and criminal, apply to any person involved in wrongdoing in Anglo Irish Bank," he said.

Mr Lenihan accepted the report did not outline the full extent of the situation facing the bank.

"This report tells the beginning of the story. Clearly the regulator has to piece together the full picture.

Clearly there are issues of grave concern in relation to the loans and to how the Quinn shareholding was assembled. Those issues are under investigation," he said.

Mr Bruton said there would be a lot of "anger and frustration" at what was contained in the report.

"We see the directors who drove this bank into a wall walking off with €9.5 million in fees and the taxpayer left to pick up greater losses than expected," he said.

"We have not been told the size of the hole in the loan book. That is one of the frustrating aspects of the report. The taxpayer is exposed to a €80 billion loan book. We just do not know how impaired that is."

Mr Bruton said the names needed to be released. His views were echoed by Ms Burton.

"We are no wiser on the structure of the deal. We don't know the names either. Nor do we know the terms and conditions other than broadly people were giving collateral of 25 per cent in a personal capacity.

"That will represent some of that 83m that was repaid. The balance is of course now close to worthless."

Ms Burton expressed surprise that there were not fuller information on the share transactions or on directors' loans.

"Directors loans on this balance sheet are a total of €179 million of which 83 million are loans to (former chairman Sean) Fitzpatrick. You have to ask: What were these loans for? Which directors were they paid to? These are enormous amounts of money," she said.

Elsewhere, the Green Party welcomed the publication of today's report as a first step toward the reform of Irish banking.

"We believe that there is a need for a root and branch review of how our banking systems operate and serve our economy and society. We believe that this must include a fundamental re-appraisal of our regulatory
systems, including the introduction of regulators with international experience to restore complete confidence in our banks," said Minister for Energy, Communications and Natural Resources Eamon Ryan.

"We need to ensure that Irish banking systems have the confidence of the Irish public and are respected internationally. We insist that wrongdoing, in whatever form, must be punished," he added.