Bertie Ahern at the Tribunal Part 2

February 3, 2008 at 8:16 pm 2 comments

Ahern Laughing

See also: Bertie Ahern at the Tribunal Part1

In the morning of Mr Ahern’s first day of evidence, Mr O’Neill, on behalf of the Tribunal, had said that this session of questioning would be focusing on five transactions, all of which involved foreign exchange transactions. As a lead-in to discussing these transactions, Mr O’Neill had been outlining the sequence of letters between the Tribunal and Mr Ahern from October 2004 onwards.

The following summary from the afternoon’s evidence brings us to the end of 2006. By this time, the Tribunal was still looking for information from Mr Ahern that it had been asking him about for more than two years. Meanwhile, in the real world, Mr Ahern had given an emotional interview to Brian Dobson of RTE, and had made a statement to the Dail, assuring the people of Ireland that he was co-operating fully with the Tribunal.

Here are the details. >>>

1. Letter from the Tribunal to Mr Ahern, March 2006

When we left the first morning’s evidence, Mr O’Neill had been saying that the Tribunal had written to Mr Ahern on the 30th of March 2006, saying that it had examined the documents that Mr Ahern had recently produced, and that Mr Ahern had not given the information that the Tribunal had requested about five transactions that it had asked him to prioritise (To clarify, this list of five transactions was not the same list of five foreign exchange transactions that the tribunal was currently questioning Mr Ahern about, although there was an overlap of two transactions that were on both lists.)

Starting the first afternoon’s evidence, Mr O’Neill continued to read from this letter. The letter said that the bank documents that Mr Ahern had provided showed no information about the source of the lodgments. It said that Mr Ahern’s affidavit showed that he maintained no records showing the receipt or expenditure of money. Mr O’Neill then started to question Mr Ahern about this.

Mr O’Neill asked Mr Ahern did he keep records of money that he received. Mr Ahern said that the bank statements were the receipts. Mr O’Neill asked Mr Ahern did he keep annual accounts of income and expenditure. Mr Ahern said no, that he had enough to do. Mr O’Neill said that each of these transactions was a substantial cash lodgment that would exceed by far Mr Ahern’s monthly pay cheque. He said that none of them represented payment for services or direct earnings.

2. Mr Ahern’s legal team raises a side issue

At this stage, Mr Maguire, who was acting for Mr Ahern, asked that another letter be read out that was also sent by the Tribunal to Mr Ahern in March 2006. That letter was responding to a request from Mr Ahern, in which he had asked whether the Tribunal was investigating allegations that he had 15 million pounds in an account in Jersey, and that he had other accounts in Lichtenstein, Dutch Antilles and England.

The Tribunal had responded that, after initial investigations into these allegations, it had not decided to hold a public enquiry into these matters. The Tribunal said that it was investigating matters of tax designation, not limited to Mr O’Callaghan, and in this context Mr Ahern was being questioned as he was Minister for Finance for some of the period in question.

Mr Ahern had replied that he had been under the impression that the Tribunal was only investigating matters directly related to Mr O’Callaghan, and that, because Mr O’Callaghan was taking proceedings against the Tribunal, Mr Ahern had been afraid that he might have been breaching injunctions about that case if he had given certain information to the Tribunal. He had said that, now that this was clarified, he had no problem giving information.

2(b) Commentary: Another diversion from Mr Ahern

This is part of a pattern of behaviour shown by Mr Ahern and his legal team at the Tribunal. They themselves raise issues that the Tribunal is not questioning Mr Ahern about, thus putting those issues on the record of the Tribunal. This not only delays the tribunal, but creates a general impression that the Tribunal is raising allegations that are either implausible or intrusive.

3. Reply from Mr Ahern to the Tribunal, April 2006

Mr O’Neill then moved on to a letter that the tribunal received in April 2006 from Mr Des Peelo, an accountant acting on behalf of Mr Ahern. This letter replied to the request from the tribunal for details about five specific transactions. Two of these transactions were also on the list of five foreign exchange transactions that the tribunal was dealing with in this session. These two overlapping transactions were:

  • A lodgement on the 11th of October 1994, amounting to 24,838.49 pounds, to Mr Ahern’s account.
  • A lodgement on the 1st of December 1995, of the sum of 19,142.92 pounds, to Mr Ahern’s account.

At that time, in April 2006, Mr Ahern had not yet told the tribunal that either of these lodgments had included foreign exchange transactions.

3(a) The foreign exchange transaction of October 1994

Mr Peelo’s letter referred to a lodgement made on the 11th of October 1994, amounting to 24,838.49 pounds, to Mr Ahern’s account. Mr Peelo’s letter explained this as follows:

  • 16,500 Irish pounds, Mr Peelo had written, came from four of Mr Ahern’s friends: Paddy Reily 3,500 pounds; Joe Burke 3,500 pounds; Barry English 5,000 pounds; and Dermot Carew 4,500 pounds. This was an unsolicited goodwill loan for Mr Ahern to put towards buying a house.
  • The remainder, Mr Peelo had written, came from Irish businessmen, who had given Mr Ahern about 8,000 UK pounds after he had spoken at a dinner in Manchester.
  • Mr Peelo’s letter said that he did not know exactly how much UK pounds Mr Ahern had got in Manchester, but at the exchange rate of the day that it was lodged, 7,845.61 UK pounds would have equalled 7,938.49 Irish pounds, and if you added that to 16,500 Irish pounds you would get a total of 24,838.49 pounds, which was the exact amount lodged.
  • The letter said that Mr Ahern had personally lodged the money, and that the AIB official who received the lodgement was either Philip Murphy or Jim McNamara.

3(b) The foreign exchange transaction of December 1995

Mr Peelo’s letter also referred to a lodgement made on the 1st of December 1995, in the sum of 19,142.92 pounds, to Mr Ahern’s account. Mr Peelo’s letter explained this as follows:

  • This was a return of Mr Ahern’s money from his then partner, Ms Celia Larkin. He said that Ms Larkin had been given 50,000 pounds in December 1994 to refurbish a house that Mr Ahern had planned to rent. She had spent about 30,000 pounds on refurbishing the house during 1995, and she was now returning the balance of 19,142.92 pounds to Mr Ahern’s account.

Mr O’Neill now asked Mr Ahern why he had not told the Tribunal that the lodgement of 19,142.92 pounds was actually lodgement of 20,000 UK pounds. Mr Ahern replied that he had asked the bank, and that it was the bank’s view that was not UK pounds.

Mr O’Neill said that this letter, from Des Peelo in April 2006, was the first time that Mr Ahern had told the Tribunal that he had given the amount of 50,000 pounds to Ms Larkin, and also the first time that Mr Ahern had told the Tribunal that Ms Larkin had given money to him.

Mr O’Neill said that the Tribunal now knew that this transaction was far more complicated than outlined in Mr Peelo’s letter. For example, the letter did not mention that, while Ms Larkin had been given 50,000 pounds in December 1994, she had given it all back to Mr Ahern six weeks later in January 1995, and she had then refurbished the house using money that Mr Ahern had given to her as she needed.

Under questioning, Mr Ahern accepted that in fact Ms Larkin did not in fact have 50,000 pounds at her disposal, and that the 50,000 pounds was in fact under the control of Mr Ahern.

4. Further correspondence during 2006

Mr O’Neill then outlined further correspondence between the tribunal and Mr Ahern during 2006.

Mr O’Neill said that, in May 2006, the Tribunal had responded to Mr Peelo’s letter, saying that the information contained in it was not complete and asking further questions. Mr Ahern replied “and you know, to save you grief, I answered them on the sixth of July or June”. Under questioning, Mr Ahern accepted that Mr Peelo’s letter had not encompassed all of the material questions that the Tribunal had asked Mr Ahern to answer and that he had later given the Tribunal more complete information.

Mr Ahern said that he had not originally answered in detail because he thought that the Tribunal was only looking for lodgements of 50,000 pounds and 30,000 pounds, which were the amounts that he had an alleged to have received. Mr O’Neill replied that there were combinations of lodgments in Mr Ahern’s accounts that are together exceeded these amounts, and that were unexplained. The Tribunal therefore had to examine these lodgments in order to rule them out of its enquiries.

Mr O’Neill said that, in July 2006, Mr Ahern had again written to the Tribunal, expressing concern about the damage that a public hearing could do to his reputation, asking the Tribunal to give him information about what it was investigating, and giving the Tribunal further information about the specific transactions that it had asked him about.

Mr O’Neill said that, in August 2006, the Tribunal had replied to Mr Ahern, explaining how the Tribunal worked, saying that it was not practical to keep witnesses informed about everything that the Tribunal was investigating, and saying that it was not necessary to do so in order for witnesses to be able to answer the questions they were asked.

Mr O’Neill said that, in the latter half of 2006, the Tribunal was following up on matters arising from Mr Ahern’s evidence, including dealing with Mr Michael Wall (Mr Ahern’s landlord), people connected to the Manchester dinner, Ms Celia Larkin, and other people mentioned in Mr Ahern’s evidence. There was also considerable correspondence between the Tribunal and Mr Ahern after the Irish Times printed leaked information about some of Mr Ahern’s evidence.

5. Commentary: Mr Ahern has now been delaying for over two years

We have now reached the end of 2006, and the Tribunal is still looking for information that it had started asking Mr Ahern for more than two years previously. By this stage, despite the fact that Mr Ahern had not provided the Tribunal with this information, the following had happened in the real world:

In September 2006, the Irish Times broke the story that Mr Ahern had received between 50,000 pounds and 100,000 pounds in the mid-1990s. Ahern had told journalists that a lot of the report was correct but that ‘the figures are off the wall.’ (This, in a way, was true, because he got a lot of the money ‘off Michael Wall’.)

Also in September 2006, Mr Ahern had appeared on RTE being interviewed by Brian Dobson. During that interview, he emotionally made the case that the only money that he had got was personal loans from friends, who had given it to him in the aftermath of the breakdown of his marriage. Almost as an afterthought, he added that he had also got some money from what he described as ‘a function in Manchester with a business organisation’.

In October 2006, Mr Ahern made a Dail statement about the matter. He gave broadly the same story to the Dail as he had given to RTE, except that the ‘function in Manchester with a business organisation’ had become ‘just a way for me to keep in touch with members of the Irish community in a city I visit often’.

After his RTE interview and his Dail statement, the Revenue Commissioners contacted Mr Ahern looking for further information about the matters he had raised.

6. Overview

This brings us up to mid-afternoon on day one of Mr Ahern’s evidence to the Tribunal, which took place on the 13th of September 2007. In my next post, I will look in more detail at Mr Ahern’s television interview with Brian Dobson and his statement to the Dail in late 2006, and in the following post I will return to the evidence given in the afternoon of Mr Ahern’s first day at the Tribunal.

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Entry filed under: Ireland, News, Politics.

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2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Jimmy Memery  |  February 17, 2008 at 8:20 pm

    If Irish poltics is to survive we must remove the cancer that exists in the body poltic ,so future generations can have faith in our law makers.The lawmakers should practice what they preach!

    In other democratic countries they would not tolerate what is going on in our political system, the corrupt politicians would have been forced to resign, instead of the tax payer ending up paying again for corruption.

    And in future elections ,the people will remember the position that some of the ministers have taken.

    Reply
  • 2. Paddy  |  February 18, 2008 at 8:17 pm

    Neither Bertie Ahern nor any of his government have even a nodding acquaintance with the truth or any form of reality.

    It’s sickening to see, day after day, what passes for ministers coming out to defend the totally indefensible.

    They are all tainted now by their lack of backbone and will never be believed again. The whole thing would make a great script for a Leslie Nielsen film.

    It’s soul destroying to think that we have had ten years of this farce and there’s no end in sight. If Shifty Ahern is trying to bring this country to it’s knees, he’s doing a great job!

    Reply

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A blog by Michael Nugent

Welcome to my blog about living in the maddest country on earth. Please feel free to leave a comment.

I also write Bionic Bohs, a blog about following Bohemians football club in the 1970s.

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Bionic Bohs

As mentioned above, if you like Irish football and/or cultural nostalgia, I also write Bionic Bohs, a blog about following Bohs in the 1970s.

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