Evidence points to growing suspicions by the Revenue

 

The former chairman of the Revenue Commissioners, Mr Seamus Pairceir, said earlier this week that the organisation did not exist in a vacuum. This was very much the case in the early 1990s, a few years after Mr Pairceir's departure. Mr Charles Haughey was in power and his government was surrounded by suspicion and business controversies.

Some of the principal controversies were the Greencore/Irish Sugar affair, the Telecom affair, and the allegations concerning the Goodman group. All three of these were mentioned yesterday by Mr Christopher Clayton.

Mr Clayton is chief inspector of taxes, a position to which he was appointed in 1989. During the mid-1980s, he was involved with Mr Pairceir in the raising of tax from Mr Haughey arising from a £300,000 payment from Mr Patrick Gallagher.

The various scandals which erupted in late 1991 prompted Mr Clayton to review the affairs of Mr Haughey. He was mindful of Mr Haughey's wealth and remembered the odd Gallagher payment. He was also mindful that Mr Haughey, a PAYE worker, had not made a return since 1985. This was "scandalous" for a man of his position, Mr Clayton said.

It wasn't mentioned yesterday, but Mr Pairceir suffered from the fallout from the 1990 controversies. He was a director of United Property Holdings, a company involved in the Tele com affair and linked to Mr Dermot Desmond. He resigned as chairman of the Custom House Docks Development Authority after comments on radio by Mr Haughey.

Over the years following Mr Clayton's action, returns were filed by Mr Haughey which failed to mention gifts or offshore accounts. The Revenue looked at the returns and found nothing which justified a full-scale inquiry. There the matter rested.

The returns "gave prominent attention to the fact that if a full and accurate return was not made, that he would be liable to severe penalties for such non-compliance", Mr Clayton said.

The point, it seems, is that Mr Haughey had been forced to make his move, and if he was subsequently found to have been lying, he was in trouble.

Of course Mr Haughey has never been punished for this filing of improper returns.

Mr Clayton and other officials who gave evidence yesterday said they had no power to collect information concerning Mr Haughey's outgoings.

However, the organisation obviously had its suspicions. Mr Clayton was suspicious, as indicated by his actions, and someone, not yet identified, since the 1970s had been collecting a file in the Revenue of newspaper clippings concerning Mr Haughey's assets and lifestyle. Included were reports written ail by Frank McDonald and Dick Walsh of The Irish Times.

After the 1997 McCracken tribunal, the Revenue reassessed the values it had previously accepted, for the purposes of residential property tax, for Mr Haughey's house in Kinsealy.

Significant increases for each year for the years 1988 to 1996 were applied. The 1996 figure was increased from £295,000 to £1.3 million. No explanation for the huge increases was offered yesterday. The Revenue's valuation office visited the house both in the 1980s and after the McCracken tribunal.