Harney takes legal advice on Lowry company report


The report of the authorised officer appointed to Garuda Ltd, the company owned by the former Fine Gael minister Mr Michael Lowry, has been completed and handed to the Tanaiste, Ms Harney.

The confidential report, which is understood to be substantial, was completed last week and is now being considered by Ms Harney. Legal advice is being sought. Though it cannot be published, copies of the report can be sent to the Revenue Commissioners, the Central Bank and/or the Director of Public Prosecutions. It can also form the basis for appointing an inspector to the company.

Any decisions by Ms Harney on what to do with the report are not likely to be taken for a number of weeks.

Mr Peter Fisher, a civil servant with the department, was appointed as an authorised officer to Garuda, trading as Streamline Enterprises, in September of last year. The appointment was one of a number which arose as a result of the McCracken report. Mr Fisher is the first of these officers to report back to the Tanaiste.

Garuda was established by Mr Lowry and provided refrigeration services to Dunnes Stores. The arrangement with Mr Ben Dunne was never outlined in writing, and Garuda was totally under the control of Dunnes. Dunnes paid Garuda enough money to allow it to show small profits and Mr Lowry was personally given bonus payments.

In his report Mr Justice McCracken said that, between November 1988 and March 1993, a number of cheques, totalling £100,000, were issued by Dunnes Stores in favour of Streamline for work carried out in England and Northern Ireland. The money was either cashed by Mr Lowry or lodged to accounts in his name and was not accounted for in the books and records of Streamline.

Four sums amounting to £155,000 were paid by Mr Ben Dunne as bonus payments to Mr Lowry between October 1990 and May 1992. Mr Justice McCracken said two of these payments were lodged in accounts in the Isle of Man in an attempt to assist Mr Lowry evade tax. A further sum of £34,100 sterling paid to Streamline was lodged in an account with AIB in Jersey in Mr Lowry's name, also in an attempt to evade tax.

Mr Justice McCracken also reported that the Dunnes group paid approximately £395,000 to contractors to refurbish Mr Lowry's home in Co Tipperary. The payments were treated in the Dunnes accounts as payments for work done for Dunnes Stores, and this was done to assist Mr Lowry evade tax.

"The whole system whereby Mr Michael Lowry would be paid substantial sums of money on a personal basis, and ultimately have a large sum of money spent on renovations to his house, was designed to, and did, assist him in evading tax," Mr Justice McCracken concluded.