The delayed release of the banking inquiry’s final report until next year has prompted fears that any further setbacks could collapse the probe if an early general election is called.
The latest dilemma for the inquiry comes as the Department of Finance yesterday refused to respond to a claim by former Anglo CEO Mike Aynsley that it wanted IBRC (formerly Anglo) to ignore a certain bussinessperson who was the highest bidder in the sale of an asset, and agree to its sale to a rival bidder for €100m less.
Whistleblower allegations about how the inquiry has operated, including claims that the Department of Finance and the Central Bank were given preferential treatment, are behind delays in the probe completing its work.
A senior barrister has been asked to examine the whistleblower allegations and report back to the Oireachtas.
Banking inquiry committee members met late on Thursday night and discussed what implications the separate investigation could have on its workload and timeframe.
The inquiry had planned to produce a draft report on its work and hearings by mid October. Oireachtas sources say this has been pushed back by four to six weeks now.
With the draft report now expected sometime in late November, it is expected that a final report — which must be presented to the Dáil —would then not be ready until mid or late January. This is because individuals mentioned in the draft report must be given an opportunity to respond.
The delay is primarily being put down to the separate investigation into the whistleblower’s claims.
The committee is due to reconvene on September 2. Witnesses scheduled to appear during that two-week period include former Irish Nationwide CEO Michael Fingleton, the former head of the International Monetary Fund’s Irish mission Ajai Chopra and Finance Minister Michael Noonan.
However, witnesses who have previously appeared may be called back or seek clarification on evidence given to date. All of this could, including the whistleblower investigation, combine to delay the outcome of the inquiry even further.
Oireachtas sources warned that if it did not get to present its report to the Dáil, in the event of an early election, any findings it makes would be inadmissible. The inquiry’s legislation does allow its report to be carried over, if a new Dáil is voted in, but this could be problematic and would also likely face a challenge in the courts.
Committee members have now agreed to speed up their workload in the autumn as well as work through parts of August.
Meanwhile, Fianna Fail has called for a statement from Mr Noonan following accusations that a department official was behind attempts to sell an asset of IBRC, formerly Anglo Irish Bank, at a knock-down price.
Mr Aynsley claimed a department official told one of the bank’s executives in January 2013 that the Finance Minister would back the sale of an asset for €100m less than the top offer.
Mr Aynsley also claimed that challenges by the department to asset sales by the bank were “politically motivated”.
Fianna Fáil’s leader in the Seanad, Darragh O’Brien, said it needed to be known what the minister knew about these alleged representations and what level of political interference was there to encourage a fire sale of this asset.
The Department of Finance refused to comment on the claims, saying the issues also fell within the scope of the proposed commission of investigation into IBRC.
by Aoife Nic Ardghail
Lawyers for former Anglo Irish Bank chairman Sean FitzPatrick want to adjourn his upcoming trial because of recent publicity surrounding the trial of three ex-Anglo officials.
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