Bruce Arnold’s sycophantic defence of Declan Ganley in the April edition of Village is fascinating at several levels. Devotion to a ‘hero’ can be touching – Arnold’s paean to his hero is merely cringe-making.
The most interesting aspect of Arnold’s efforts is his claim that he has “checked the allegations” against Ganley. I doubt very much that Arnold has done so. If he has there a couple of areas on which he could enlighten those who have been attempting to probe the mysteries surrounding Mr Ganley, the Libertas organisation, its operations and true motives.
One of the most important functions of the free press in Ireland is to provide a forum where journalists – ideally ones with a far greater degree of integrity than has been evidenced by Arnold in this case – can objectively examine the claims made by those who would wish to shape this country’s destiny.
Scrutiny may fall on anyone who seeks to be a leader, representative or activist – elected or otherwise – and Declan Ganley, for all his millions, should be treated no differently from others who seek public office.
The central argument presented by Arnold appears to be built on logic of a very questionable variety: Declan Ganley shouldn’t have to answer any questions because other public figures have not – in Arnold’s opinion – been sufficiently questioned in the past.
Arnold’s reference to unspecified “allegations” against Ganley is laughable, given that he has been employed to write a book illuminating Ganley’s “political vision”.
The notion that this established relationship with Ganley might have diminished his journalistic impartiality does not appear to have been entertained by Arnold.
Sources in the Irish embassy in Warsaw, which was accredited to Latvia, told The Irish Times in 1999 it had become aware of the reports about Ganley’s activities in Latvia, and had made discreet inquiries. But no trace could be found by the embassy of Ganley’s business dealings in Latvia, or of his acting as an advisor to the government”. Has Arnold any evidence to contradict this?
Indeed as Arnold has in his words “checked the allegations” against Ganley, there are a few issues from the acres of material from Mr Ganley’s self-promoted biography on which Bruce might enlighten us all.
First there are Ganley’s claims that in 1991 he was Foreign Economic Affairs Advisor to the then Latvian Government – an important starting point in his biog. This appointment is supposed to have opened doors for young Mr Ganley. The problem is that the then Latvian PM denies the claim. Colm Keena writing in The Irish Times has pointed out that “people in Latvia who had made inquiries about Ganley at the time were unable to find anyone who’d heard of him. Sources in the Irish embassy in Warsaw, which was accredited to Latvia, told The Irish Times in 1999 it had become aware of the reports about Ganley’s activities in Latvia, and had made discreet inquiries. But no trace could be found by the embassy of Ganley’s business dealings in Latvia, or of his acting as an advisor to the government”. Has Arnold any evidence to contradict this?
During the period when Ganley claims he was operating from Riga, an Irish citizen, Michael Bourke was working for the IMF in Riga. Mr. Bourke recalls meeting Ganley in the city. His meeting with Ganley was discussed in some detail on the Prime Time programme.
He told RTÉ, “the meeting is one I shall never forget”. He said that he was involved in international trade and that he would be setting up his own bank – Ganley International Bank.
He said he would be “getting a licence from the Minister for Finance”. When asked whether the bank ever materialised, Bourke answered, “it did not” and went on to point out that he had contacted the Latvian Ministry for Finance shortly after speaking with Ganley and asked whether they had any information on a bank being opened by an Irish citizen or on application for a licence by Ganley International Bank. The response he received was negative. There was no evidence or information on any such venture. What is Arnold’s view on this ?
Ganley’s claims regarding his activities in Russia in the dying period of the Soviet system have been described by experts of that era as not capable of holding water. Jan Urban the Czech journalist/ writer indelicately describes Ganley’s claims as “bullshit”.
To recap the claims: Ganley claims, that in his late teens / early 20s :-
- he hit on the idea of insuring the launch of western payloads into space on Russian rockets.
- he was been invited by the Russians to lead a trade delegation to Moscow.
- he “bagged” during the course of the trade delegations visit, a valuable contract with the Russian authorities for insuring western payloads launched on Russian spacecraft, only to have been foiled when he was forced by the US authorities to drop the idea.
- he masterminded a major trade fair on Russian metals and alloys in London.
- he established a successful business exporting aluminium from Russia to the west at the height of Russia’s “aluminium wars”.
- he established and owned Russia’s biggest timber business.
Ganley’s claims are all the more remarkable given that they are the “achievements” of a young man with little or no capital, with no knowledge of the Russian language and with no particular personal expertise in any of the areas concerned. In addition the “achievements” were made against a backdrop of turmoil in Russia as it moved from the Soviet system.
It would be fascinating to read Arnold’s take on all of this. Journalists who have investigated Ganley’s claims to have been a major business player in Russia in this period have all run into brick walls – Mr Arnold would be doing his hero a major favour if he produced any evidence to dispel the suspicions that surround the truthfulness of the accounts of Ganley’s adventures in Russia.
Then there are the questions about Ganley’s activities in Iraq. These were probed by RTÉ. The account of his activities in Iraq given by Ganley clashes with the known facts.
T Christian Miller’s book “Blood Money: Wasted Billions, Lost Lives, and Corporate Greed in Iraq suggests that “one case in particular demonstrated how political favours, money and corporate avarice strangled in the reconstruction process and from the start”. Miller is referring to the programme to reconstruct Iraq’s telecommunications system and a series of events surrounding Declan Ganley’s involvement in that troubled country.
And then there is the issue of Ganley’s Rivada operations. The obvious question that arises is why does the US Department of Defense dole out contracts to Ganley’s company without the inconvenience of competitive tendering?
It would be equally fascinating to have Arnold’s opinions on the number of off shore tax-havens that appear in Ganley company activities, and to have his views of on the $120 million in vouchers handed over by unfortunate Albanian citizens to Ganley’s Anglo Adriatic Investment trust – a matter probed in RTE’s excellent documentary about some of Ganley’s business operations.
Given Arnold’s evident admiration for Ganley and Libertas he might also address the mounting evidence that Libertas has been rather less than successful in bringing together credible candidates for the upcoming EU Parliament elections. Few of the Libertas candidates have any well defined record of public service: some can most charitably be described as full-blown Europhobic.
One further question Arnold might turn his mind to is why does Ganley try to shut down opponents with threats of legal action – is he afraid of the truth or is he just a bully? He has mooted actions against Joe Costello, Jim Higgins and Prime Time.
Most recently we have had the action against Village Magazine – an action that seems to have faded when faced with a determined and robust defence.
As in so many other areas it would be fascinating to hear Mr Arnold expatiate on this.