Ahern evidence about finances deemed untrue

Fri, Mar 23, 2012, 00:00

FORMER TAOISEACH Bertie Ahern gave untrue evidence to the tribunal about his personal finances, including lodgements to accounts which the tribunal found were large sterling and dollar cash deposits.

The inquiry found that Mr Ahern knew the true source of some lodgements investigated by the tribunal, but chose not to disclose their origin.

It also rejected Mr Ahern’s evidence, and others’, to the effect that collections or “dig-outs” occurred in 1993 and 1994 that resulted in Mr Ahern being given £22,500 and £16,500.

Evidence was also rejected to the effect that an account operated by Mr Ahern’s associate, Tim Collins, held money for the maintenance and upkeep of St Luke’s in Drumcondra.

Mr Ahern and Mr Collins said the account, called the B/T account, held funds for a Building Trust associated with St Luke’s. However, the tribunal found that it held funds for the benefit of Mr Ahern and Mr Collins.

The tribunal rejected evidence from the former Fianna Fáil fundraiser and long-time associate of Mr Ahern, Des Richardson, that he along with Mr Ahern’s solicitor, the late Gerry Brennan, organised a collection for Mr Ahern in December 1993.

It rejected the evidence of Mr Richardson, of publican Charlie Chawke, businessmen Michael Collins and David McKenna and former director of the Central Bank Jim Nugent, who all gave evidence of contributing to the collection, mostly by way of cash.

The tribunal was told that the late Fintan Gunne and the late Paddy Reilly (Paddy the Butcher), also contributed.

Mr Chawke said last evening Judge Mahon was not correct to reject his evidence.

The tribunal accepted evidence from former stockbroker Padraic O’Connor that he made a political donation following an approach from Mr Richardson, but had not intended that the money go to Mr Ahern personally.

Mr Ahern told the tribunal that during the period 1987 to 1993 he had no bank account but cashed his pay cheques and accumulated money in a safe. The tribunal did not accept his evidence that he accumulated £50,000 approximately in cash during the period. Mr Ahern had said this accumulated cash was subsequently lodged to accounts he opened from December 1993.

The tribunal said it believed lodgements to accounts in 1994 by Mr Ahern were funds he had received in the months prior to the lodgements.

Mr Ahern was minister for finance in 1994 and late that year came close to negotiating a coalition government with the Labour Party, which he would have headed as leader of Fianna Fáil.

The tribunal said it was satisfied that £30,000 of unknown origin, lodged in April 1994, had come into Mr Ahern’s possession in the period between December 1993 and April 1994.

Likewise the tribunal said Mr Ahern had not disclosed the true source of £20,000 lodged to one of his accounts in August 1994 and found that, contrary to his evidence, it believed he had come into this money in the period between April and August 1994.

The inquiry did not accept Mr Ahern’s evidence that he got £16,500 in cash from a second collection, or dig-out, in late 1994.

The purported contributors to this dig-out, the tribunal was told, were publican Dermot Carew, businessman Barry English, former chairman of Dublin Port Joe Burke and long-time supporter of Mr Ahern, Paddy Reilly (Paddy the Plasterer).

The tribunal also did not accept evidence from Mr Ahern that he was given £8,000 in sterling cash collected following a speaking engagement in Manchester.

It did not accept Mr Ahern’s evidence that a lodgement of £24,838.49 in October 1994 was the lodgement of these two sums of money. Rather, it said it was satisfied the lodgement was funded by £25,000 sterling cash of unknown origin.

The tribunal rejected Mr Ahern’s evidence that he was given approximately £30,000 in sterling cash by Manchester businessman Micheal Wall in St Luke’s in December 1994.

Mr Ahern and Mr Wall told the tribunal it was for the renovation of a house on Beresford Avenue, in Drumcondra, which Mr Wall was in the process of buying and in which Mr Ahern was going to live.

The tribunal said it was satisfied that a lodgement of £28,772.90 on December 5th, 1994, by Mr Ahern’s then partner, Celia Larkin, to an account in her name but to be held for Mr Ahern’s benefit, was not the proceeds of the alleged payment from Mr Wall.

Rather, the tribunal was satisfied it was in fact the result of the lodgement of $45,000 in cash.

“Because of Mr Ahern’s failure to account to the tribunal as to the true source of the foreign currency which funded the said lodgement, the tribunal was unable to determine the source of these funds,” the tribunal said.

The tribunal did not accept Mr Ahern’s evidence as to the source of a £10,000 sterling cash lodgement to an account in Ms Larkin’s name in June 1994, and said because Mr Ahern failed to disclose the true source of the lodgement it was unable to determine where it came from.

The tribunal found likewise in relation to a £20,000 sterling cash lodgement to an account of Mr Ahern’s in December 1995.

Mr Ahern told the inquiry sterling lodgements of £15,500 made to his account and those of his daughters in the Irish Permanent Building Society on various dates in 1994 arose from winnings on horses and sterling cash he raised towards the purchase of a property in Manchester, which never occurred. “Because Mr Ahern failed to truthfully account as to the source of the stg£15,500 cash, the tribunal was unable to determine the source of the funds.”

The tribunal was satisfied an account opened with the Irish Permanent, Drumcondra, in 1989 by Tim Collins, a long-time supporter of Mr Ahern, and called the B/T account, was not an account used to fund political activity or the maintenance of St Luke’s. “The tribunal rejected entirely the evidence of Mr Collins, Mr [Joe] Burke and Mr Ahern as to the claimed purpose of the account.”

The inquiry found the initials stood for Bertie and Tim, not Building Trust, as claimed by the witnesses. The tribunal said the initials stood for the two men’s names just as another account in the branch, the D/T account, stood for Des Richardson and Tim Collins. The tribunal said it was satisfied the B/T account was used, at least up to 1997, for the personal benefit of Mr Ahern and Mr Collins.

Ms Larkin was given £30,000 from the account in March 1993, which she used to buy a house in Phibsborough, Dublin. The tribunal did not accept Mr Ahern’s evidence that he had not known of the payment at the time. Rather the tribunal believed he was involved in making the decision.

The inquiry believed Mr Ahern and Mr Collins could account for lodgements of £19,000 and £10,000 made to the account in 1992 and 1995 “but did not do so”.

Mr Ahern and Mr Wall gave evidence that Mr Wall had bought a house on Beresford Avenue, Dublin, in 1995, for £138,000 and then sold the house to Mr Ahern in 1997. The funds for the 1995 purchase came from accounts of Mr Wall’s business in Manchester.

However, the tribunal concluded Mr Ahern at all times owned the house and this explained why Mr Wall made a will in 1996, using Mr Ahern’s solicitor, the late Gerry Brennan, leaving the house to Mr Ahern, and Mr Ahern’s daughters in the event he pre-deceased Mr Wall.