TD holds his hands up over 'very serious matter'

 

INDEPENDENT TD Mick Wallace has admitted he was wrong to withhold employers’ contributions for his workers’ pension scheme.

Wallace said he was “holding my hands up” over the €7,000 fine imposed on him by Judge James Paul McDonnell.

Speaking after the court action, Mr Wallace said withholding employers’ pension contribution was a “serious matter” and the courts were right to take it seriously.

Wallace was fined €7,000 after pleading guilty on five counts of withholding employers’ contributions to the pension scheme of his workers between January 2008 and May 2008.

Wallace acknowledged he owed the money. However, he added that he was not as guilty as some would believe and he had “serious problems communicating with the Pensions Board at the time”.

He said there was €136,000 owed over the two years from January 2008 to January 2010.

At “no stage”, he said, was the employees’ contribution not made and the whole sum was discharged.

“I realise it is a very serious matter and the courts are right to deal with it in a serious fashion,” he said.

He also stressed that he had paid all the employees’ contributions on time and has paid all the money owed in pension payments.

When asked what the public will think of what he did, he responded: “People will make their own calls on that.”

Mary Hutch, head of regulation at the Pensions Board, said the nonpayment of employers’ contributions could be “very prejudicial” especially for those who die in service.

“In that event the death-in-service benefit cannot be paid to the scheme because the contributions have not been made on their behalf,” she said.

Ms Hutch also said such behaviour “radically diminishes” the pensions of employees who are deprived of all their contributions.

She described it as a “very significant case” in the context of the board’s investigations into the Construction Workers’ Pension Scheme where employers are not passing on pension contributions they deduct from employees.

Ms Hutch also revealed they were investigating 190 similar cases to Wallace, 40 of which are pending before the court.

In addition the board had secured 15 prosecutions so far this year. To date €4.5 million has been repatriated to the construction workers’ scheme.

“We take these cases very seriously indeed. Our major concern is to get the money paid back into the scheme,” she said.

“It is a very serious matter to take pension contributions from hardworking employees and not pass them on to the scheme on their behalf.”