Mick Wallace’s claims over water meter company sale ‘shabby’, says Alan Dukes
Sale of Siteserv to Denis O’Brien not politically influenced, says former Anglo chair
Mick Wallace: “The very nature by which this gentleman ended up in possession of Siteserv is very questionable.” Photograph: Alan Betson
Alan Dukes, the former State-appointed chairman of Anglo Irish Bank, has called for Independent TD Mick Wallace to withdraw his comments in the Dáil in relation to the sale of Siteserv to billionaire Denis O’Brien as they had “no foundation”.
Mr Wallace alleged in the Dáil last Thursday that Mr O’Brien’s “political links” may have been influential in his 2012 purchase of Siteserv, a company that has won State contracts to install meters for Irish Water.
“The very nature by which this gentleman [Mr O’Brien] ended up in possession of Siteserv is very questionable,” said Mr Wallace.
“There will be some unease about the fact that Denis O’Brien’s close political links may have been instrumental in his bid to buy Siteserv, the company that won the State contract to install water meters for Irish Water.
“He did a deal with IBRC where €100 million of debt that Siteserv owed to . . . IBRC, which was really the taxpayer, was wiped off,” he added. “Two higher bids for the company that would have earned the State more money were rejected. A former Fine Gael minister was chairman of IBRC at the time the deal was approved.”
‘Abuse’ of privilegeMr Dukes in a statement to The Irish Times responded: “In a blatant abuse of Dáil privilege, Deputy Mick Wallace insinuated that political considerations on my part influenced a decision by IBRC in relation to the sale of Siteserv.
“There is no foundation for this shabby allegation and I call on Deputy Wallace to withdraw it,” he added. “Deputy Wallace has no insight into the details of the transaction, which remain subject to the normal considerations of client confidentiality. All decisions of IBRC were motivated by the mandate to secure the best possible return for the State and the taxpayer from the management and disposal of its assets.”
Asked to comment yesterday, Mr Wallace said his Dáil remarks were on the record. “Questions have been raised to which Mr Dukes could give some answers,’’ he said.
In a statement yesterday, a spokesman for Siteserv Holdings said Mr Wallace’s remarks were false. “Siteserv Holdings regrets the comments by Deputy Mick Wallace which are both inaccurate and misleading. It requests that if the deputy is going to comment further about these matters in future that he properly researches the issues and sticks to the facts.”
His claim that Mr O’Brien’s close political links may have been instrumental in his bid to buy Siteserv was untrue, the company said. “The transaction to buy Siteserv plc (in liquidation) was conducted in line with best corporate practice and it was determined by the then board of the company that the agreed sale was in the best interest of the company’s shareholders.”
The IBRC agreement to accept payment of an amount which was less than the full amount owed by Siteserv plc in full and final discharge was not uncommon, the company said. “It should be noted that at the time of the bids, IBRC was willing to engage with all bidders along similar lines.”
Mr O’Brien bought Siteserv the construction and utility services group’s businesses for €45.5 million through an Isle of Man company called Millington in April 2012.