Questions and answers on Denis O'Brien and his tax
Denis O’Brien responded by remarking how the government had recently cut the capital gains tax rate to 20 per cent, an initiative of which he approved – the impression he left was that he anticipated paying the capital gains tax.
Siobhán Creaton wrote (page 169): “Despite his comments on the Late Late Show, O’Brien did not want to have to pay tax on his fortune to the Irish revenue authorities. Before the sale he had told his advisors to find a way for him to take the full €317 million without paying any tax at all. … They came up with a scheme whereby if he moved to Portugal he could avoid paying any tax on his spoils and still be free to travel in and out of Ireland to oversee his radio and other businesses. He would become a tax exile.”
She went on to record that this decision took some of his friends by surprise. She quoted one of his closest friends and his personal lawyer, Paul Meagher.
Siobhán Creaton says Paul Meagher urged O’Brien to reconsider his decision to avoid the payment of capital gains tax. “I gave him my views. He didn’t agree with me. It was a short conversation. His view is very different. He felt he was entitled to every penny of it. He created a huge amount of jobs, directly and indirectly, and created a lot of wealth for others. I thought at the start, it was fundamentally wrong. You pay your taxes if you want to live in Ireland and you want to be a citizen of the state. I think you have got to contribute, but Denis takes a fundamentally different view and he is entitled to it.”
I asked Siobhán Creaton if either Denis O’Brien or Paul Meagher had objected to this account. She replied they had not.
In correspondence with me last summer O’Brien claimed: “I had moved to Portugal some time before the sale of Esat Telecom to British Telecom and did so for perfectly valid and legitimate personal and business reasons.”
Isn’t it surprising that his own lawyer, Paul Meagher, was unaware of these “perfectly valid and legitimate personal and business reasons” aside from any wish to avoid paying capital gains tax when he spoke to Creaton and that O’Brien himself didn’t seem to think these were relevant when he spoke on The Late Late Show?