Five former politicians deny offshore claims

Names of former politicians investigated for alleged tax evasion read into Dáil record

Names in a dossier of former politicians who allegedly held offshore accounts have been read into the Dál record by Sinn Féin deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald.

 

Five former politicians named in the Dáil by Sinn Féin TD Mary Lou McDonald as having been in a dossier of alleged offshore account holders have rejected the claims.

Former European commissioner Máire Geoghegan-Quinn, former Progressive Democrat and Fianna Fáil minister Des O’Malley, former Fianna Fáil ministers Ray MacSharry and Gerard Collins, and former Fine Gael minister Richie Ryan have all denied ever having Ansbacher accounts.

Ms McDonald today read the names of Mr O’Malley, Ms Geoghegan-Quinn, Mr MacSharry, Mr Collins, “an S Barrett’’, Mr Ryan as well as “others” whom she did not identify into the Dáil record as allegedly having held offshore accounts.

She said they featured in a dossier compiled by a public servant who investigated tax evasion claims as part of his work in the Department of Enterprise.

Ms McDonald said it was not a case of her making allegations, “and I emphasise these are allegations’, but they had come from a very credible source.

Ansbacher accounts were funds lodged in Ireland by the Cayman Islands bank, Ansbacher (Cayman) Ltd. They were at the core of an unauthorised financial service run in secret by the late Des Traynor. They allowed account-holders to lodge money with Guinness Mahon Bank in College Green which was then held offshore. The money would be accessed through Mr Traynor in Dublin. They ran from 1971 and the Irish operation was finally wound up in the mid-1990s.

Mr MacSharry, a former minister for finance, described the allegations as “absolutely outrageous”.

“I have never had an Ansbacher account, I was never was the beneficiary of one,” he said, adding he never had a Guinness and Mahon account either.

Mr MacSharry said he would be consulting his legal representatives to see what recourse he has, both against Gerry Ryan, the whistleblower, as well as Ms McDonald to see whether they “have the protection” they think they have.

“None of these wildcats should be able to sully my good name,” he said.

Ms Geoghegan-Quinn, a former Fianna Fáil minister, said in a statement: “I have never had an Ansbacher account. Neither have I had an account with Guinness Mahon Bank”.

In a statement, Mr Collins, a former Fianna Fail minister for justice, said: “I have never had or held an Ansbacher Account or Guinness and Mahon Bank Account and I would welcome any investigation into this matter.”

Mr Ryan, a former finance minister, told RTÉ he “emphatically denied” ever having an Ansbacher account or an account with Guinness and Mahon. He said he was “a total stranger” to the allegations.

Mr O’Malley said the reason for his being on the list was because he had “a particular form of account with Guinness Mahon Bank” which at the time was viewed as “a perfectly respectable bank”.

“The list, and allegations of tax evasion have been extensively investigated already by the Revenue Commissioners, the Gardai and the Moriarty Tribunal several years ago. Despite this it is being raised again,” he said in a statement.

Mr O’Malley said that on his appointment as minister for industry and commerce in 1977 he was aware that he had a share in some of the companies he would be dealing with.

“In order to avoid a conflict of interest and allegations of acting in my capacity as Minister for personal benefit, I followed a practice that is standard in other countries and put my assets into a blind trust. I was advised at the time that Guinness Mahon Bank had experience of operating such trusts,” he said.

Mr O’Malley said the nature of such a trust was for the owner of the assets in trust giving power of attorney for control of his relevant assets to trustees and that as the beneficiary he had no knowledge of the stocks and shares bought on his behalf.

“I received dividends annually through Guinness Mahon Bank and I paid tax on these in Ireland,” he added. “My tax affairs remain in full compliance with the Revenue Commissioners. I have never availed of a tax amnesty and indeed opposed it when the Fianna Fail/Labour government introduced one in 1993.”

He said he had never had any dealings with Mr Traynor or held an Ansbacher account, adding that he believed “that such an account would have been a breach of trust by the bank in its dealings with me”.