Sunday 15 February 2009

DDDA now facing further probes from Oireachtas

The Dublin Docklands Development Authority (DDDA) faces further probes from the Oireachtas about its decision to enter a joint venture to purchase a €411m South Wharf site in Poolbeg.

Fine Gael front bencher Phil Hogan, who grilled senior executive members of the DDDA last week on the land deal, said he will discuss the authority with other members of the Oireachtas environment committee on Tuesday. He added that he "would be calling for further exploration of various outstanding matters" such as the Poolbeg site and the U2 tower site.

Hogan is also looking for a valuation of the 26-acre South Wharf site to be carried out by an "independent valuer who has no association with a financial institution".

DDDA chief executive Paul Maloney said last week that he expects the site to be written down by about 30%, a claim dismissed as "nonsense" by one senior development land expert.

The Sunday Tribune ob­tained three so-called "desk-bound" valuations of the site last week from land experts which valued the site at €90m, €120m and €125m respectively, meaning the site has lost about €300m in value since it was purchased.

Davy has told clients who invested in the scheme that they wrote it down by 60% of its investment following a revaluation estimating its value at about €165m. The DDDA also faces substantial other writedowns on its CHQ retail complex and its other land-holdings in the docklands.

The DDDA revealed last week that Becbay, the vehicle that acquired the site, has not been paying interest on the loan on the land, pending a renegotiation of terms, since the second half of 2008. Developer Bernard McNamara and former revenue tax inspector Derek Quinlan are the other members of the consortium.

Hogan said former DDDA chairman and Anglo Irish Bank director Lar Bradshaw "did not declare a conflict of interest" in relation to the fact that he was a client of Quinlan's private wealth management business.

Maloney also confirmed that Bradshaw did not declare his business relationship with Paul Coulson – the main person behind South Wharf, the vendor of the Poolbeg site – according to Hogan.

Bradshaw and Coulson, via a company called Balcuik, are investors in property in Sandyford together with former Anglo chairman Seán FitzPatrick. "Bradshaw completed his term as chairman of the DDDA on 30 June 2007, therefore he is no longer on the board of the authority. No information has been brought to the authority about Balcuik," a spokeswoman for the authority said.

The DDDA also refused to comment on whether Maloney or other members of the authority hired corporate communications expert Terry Prone for presentation and media training prior to its appearance at last week's committee hearing.

Sunday Tribune

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