Cops Raid Anglo Irish Offices

Fraud squad cops move on Tuesday into offices of controversial Anglo Irish Bank as demands grew for the names of 10 "golden circle" investors who used the bank's own money to secretly buy 10 percent of it. Gardai (police), working with the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement (ODCE), which is investigating a series of financial scandals related to the bank, had search warrants issued by a judge on Monday. They searched the main offices in St. Stephen's Green in Dublin for books, documents and other materials that could provide evidence of any offenses under company law. Meanwhile, there are growing demands for all the names in the golden circle of 10 investors who bought 10 percent of the organization last year with €451 million of the bank's own cash. Four of the names were revealed this week by the Sunday Times. They include Gerry Gannon, co-owner with Michael Smurfit of the K Club which hosted the 2006 Ryder Cup. Gannon is founder of Gannon Homes development group and owns a large amount of land in north and south Dublin. The other three named investors are Seamus Ross, Joe O'Reilly and Jerry Conlan. Longford-born Ross runs Menolly Homes, the country's biggest house builder. He also owns Dunboyne Castle in Co. Meath. He lost millions of euro when the International Securities Trading Corporation (ISTC), a finance company set up by Tiernan O'Mahony, a former Anglo executive, came close to collapsing. O'Reilly is best known for developing the €1 billion Dundrum Shopping Center in South Dublin. His company, Castlethorn, plans to build a €1.2 billion new town in Adamstown, west Dublin. He also plans a mixed-use development on O'Connell Street in Dublin. Conlan is the least well-known of the four. He sold 400 acres of land he co-owned in Naas, Co. Kildare, known as Millennium Park, for €340 million. He used much of the proceeds to found the Mount Carmel Medical Group that owns a maternity hospital in Rathfarnham, south Dublin. The group has been appointed by the Health Service Executive to build private hospitals on the grounds of public hospitals as part of the government's co-location strategy. None of the four has commented on being named as members of the so-called golden circle. Either they or some of their companies, as well as the unnamed other six members of the circle, now owe an estimated €300 million euro to Anglo - and consequently to the taxpayer - since the bank was recently nationalized as part of the government's efforts to stabilize the scandal-ridden Irish banking sector. The bank has admitted it is likely to have to write off the money. Ulick McEvaddy, a well-known business figure, last week described the "Anglo 10" as "heroes" who were prepared to put themselves at risk to support the bank. Anglo Irish Bank lent €451 million to a group it has described as "10 long-standing clients," to buy 10 percent of the bank. The transaction was agreed to prevent a feared fall in Anglo's share price. The Central Bank, the Financial Regulator (the government watchdog on the financial services sector) and the Department of Finance all denied advance knowledge of the sweetheart deal between Anglo Irish and the golden circle. With four of the "golden circle" being named, there has been further pressure on the government to disclose the others. But Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Brian Cowen said that his advice from the attorney general was that he could not disclose the names, and European Minister Dick Roche said the government had no right to know who the investors were because of confidentiality clauses in legislation governing the banks. However, one of the Cabinet members, Transport Minister Noel Dempsey, accused the circle of "economic treason." Dempsey said his cabinet colleagues recognized why the public wanted the information on the investors, and said the people who engaged in the loans-for-shares deal should pay. Fine Gael said it wants a clean start in Irish banking, and for this the government has to get all relevant details into the public.

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