Isle of Man trust central to latest Lowry claims
The controversial Independent TD Michael Lowry appeared to be still out of the country yesterday and calls to his mobile phone went unreturned.
The North Tipperary deputy is likely to come under pressure to explain the latest revelation about his personal financial affairs whenever he does surface.
In the lengthy transcript of a telephone conversation published in the Sunday Independent, Lowry spoke of a payment, apparently of £250,000, he made to Kevin Phelan, an Omagh, Co Tyrone, land agent.
Phelan, who recorded his September 2004 conversation with Lowry, gave the tape of the conversation to the Sunday newspaper.
In a letter to the Moriarty tribunal in 2007, Lowry told the tribunal the only payment he had made to Phelan was £65,000 and that this was in relation to a land deal in Wigan. That land deal involved Lowry and Thurles businessman Liam Carroll and was not the subject of any tribunal hearings.
The tribunal, in its final report, said the March/April 2002 payment to Phelan was aimed at stopping Phelan from undermining a “contrived falsehood” that had been presented to the tribunal in relation to land deals in the late 1990s in Cheadle and Mansfield which the tribunal concluded involved an effort by businessman Denis O’Brien to confer a benefit on Lowry.
Likewise a payment by O’Brien to Phelan in 2002, of £150,000, had a similar purpose, the tribunal decided. Lowry and O’Brien said the payments were fees due to Phelan.
There was no evidence to the tribunal about any payment of £200,000, or £250,000 to Phelan, as discussed by Phelan and Lowry in the transcript.
In the transcript Lowry appears anxious that Phelan will not publicly disclose the payment, saying that the money was never declared.
In a brief statement on Sunday, Lowry said the money came from the accounts of his Tipperary refrigeration business, Garuda Ltd, was made on his behalf, and was fully declared. He did not say why the payment was made, nor why it was made out of a refrigeration company.
The 2002 accounts for Garuda show a pretax loss of €140,905 and a gross profit of €422,891. A note to the accounts says that in May 2002 the Revenue Commissioners raised assessments against it which the company has appealed.
In the transcript Lowry says the £200,000/£250,000 payment – he uses different figures at different times – was to do with Vineacre and was intended to buy Phelan out of the Wigan deal. But Phelan, in the transcript, says the money was paid into his Isle of Man trust, the Glebe Trust. “As far as I’m concerned that 250 represented my selling my Glebe Trust shares in Westferry.”
This is a reference to the purchase of Doncaster Rovers Football Club Ltd in 1998, for £4.3 million. The transaction involved the sale of a company, Westferry, which owned the shares in Doncaster Rovers. Glebe sold its Westferry shares to another Isle of Man Trust, Walbrook, that held the shares for the benefit of O’Brien.
Despite the protestations of O’Brien and Lowry, Mr Justice Michael Moriarty decided that at some stage Lowry was involved in the Doncaster deal.
In the transcript Lowry asks if Phelan is saying “the 250” went into the Glebe Trust. It did, responds Phelan. “If that comes out,” Lowry says, “I’m f***ed.”
However, in 2011 the tribunal found against Lowry on the Doncaster issue, and his political career continues.