Government leaders have made the decision in principle to shut down the commission of inquiry into Irish Bank Resolution Corporation, closing off investigations into dozens of transactions after it took seven years to conclude its final report on the Siteserv deal.
Taoiseach Micheál Martin, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar and Green leader Eamon Ryan discussed the commission’s future at their regular meeting this week as the Cabinet gave the go-ahead to publish the 1,500-page Siteserv report.
Informed Government sources said the Coalition leaders were proceeding on the basis that the mandate of Mr Justice Brian Cregan will not be extended beyond October. “At Cabinet there is no desire to keep going with this,” said one person briefed on discussions between Ministers.
Attorney General Paul Gallagher will be asked to provide advice on whether the Dáil and Seanad should be required to vote on a motion to close down the commission.
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The Siteserv report was published on Wednesday, saying the company’s €45 million sale to Denis O’Brien in 2012 was based on “misleading and incomplete information” that the company provided to IBRC. The bank wrote off €118 million of the €150 million that Siteserv owed as part of the deal.
The commission was supposed to investigate another 37 transactions in which the State-owned IBRC wrote off €1.88 billion in aggregate between the 2009 nationalisation of the former Anglo Irish Bank and the 2013 special liquidation.
At issue were transactions resulting in capital losses greater than €10 million and any giving rise or likely to give rise to potential public concern in respect of returns to the taxpayer.
But the long duration of the Siteserv investigation and accumulation of large costs has led to growing expectation in political circles that the Government will soon close down the commission Mr Martin said in reply to a parliamentary question in April that the cost of the Siteserv inquiry “could exceed €30 million”.
The judge previously acknowledged “significant, if not insuperable, difficulties” in relation to discovery and witness statements linked to 28 borrowers incorporated or resident outside the State
In a 2020 interim report, he said the commission will be unable to investigate whether a transaction was or was not commercially sound if it cannot obtain documents, statements and evidence from witnesses in such jurisdictions.
“As such, the Commission is of the view that it will not be able to progress its investigations in any meaningful way into any of these transactions,” he said then.
Of the nine Irish borrowers, two companies had been dissolved and two were then in receivership. “This will also present obstacles to the Commission pursuing its investigation into these write-offs as it may be difficult to obtain documents from such companies.”
In August the Government said the commission’s time frame had been extended to the end of October, a period in which it was expected to deal with cost applications “and provide a report on the investigation of the other transactions” falling within the terms of reference.