Tribunal rejects 'dig-out' claims


The Mahon tribunal has rejected the evidence of the former taoiseach Bertie Ahern in relation to his personal finances as mostly “untrue”.

In its final report, published today, the tribunal found that, contrary to his sworn evidence, there were no dig-outs in 1993 and 1994 for Mr Ahern and that large dollar and sterling cash lodgements were made to his bank accounts in the mid-1990s.

However, the tribunal said that because Mr Ahern did not give a true account as to the source of money that was lodged to his accounts, it has not been able to identify where the money came from.

For this reason, it could not determine whether Mr Ahern had received corrupt payments from the developer Owen O’Callaghan, the tribunal said.

The tribunal rejected Mr Ahern’s evidence in relation to his current home, on Beresford Avenue, in Drumcondra, Dublin. It found that the house was beneficially owned by Mr Ahern at all times, and was not bought by Michael Wall of Manchester, and then later sold by him to Mr Ahern, as claimed in sworn evidence by both men.

It has rejected his evidence in relation to receiving money from “dig-outs” and has also found that, despite his evidence and the evidence of others to the contrary, $45,000 in cash was lodged on his behalf in AIB O’Connell Street, Dublin, in December 1994, by his then partner Celia Larkin.

The tribunal has found there was no “dig-out” in December 1993 that raised £22,500 for Mr Ahern or that Mr Ahern, as he stated in evidence, received any such sum of money, as a gift or loan, from a number of indentified individuals.

The tribunal has rejected the evidence from Des Richardson, Charlie Chawke, Michael Collins, David McKenna, and Jim Nugent, in relation to the alleged "dig-out".

It also rejected Mr Ahern’s evidence in relation to receiving £16,500 raised in a second “dig-out” involving four other individuals who gave evidence. It did not accept the evidence of these people or that STG£8,000 had been collected for Mr Ahern during a dinner in Manchester.

The tribunal has found that it cannot identify the source of the funds. However it found that a lodgement made in October 1994 which Mr Ahern claimed was the Manchester money and Irish cash from the second dig-out, was in fact STG£25,000 . Mr Ahern in his evidence contested this suggestion, which was supported by bank records.

The tribunal has also rejected the evidence of Mr Ahern and Mr Wall, of Manchester, that Mr Ahern was given STG£30,000 cash in St Lukes in December 1994. The tribunal found that a lodgement of £28,772.90 made that month in AIB O’Connell Street, Dublin, was in fact the result of $45,000 in cash being lodged.

The tribunal has also rejected Mr Ahern’s sworn evidence that he accumulated £54,000 in cash savings in the 1987 to 1993 period during which he said he had no bank accounts.

The tribunal has “entirely rejected” the evidence of Mr Ahern and his two close associates, Joe Burke and Tim Collins, in relation to an account called the B/T account. The tribunal was told the money lodged to this account was for the upkeep of St Luke's, the Fianna Fáil office in Drumcondra.

The tribunal found that the account was operated for the personal benefit of Mr Ahern and Mr Collins. It found that both men knew the origin of lodgements of £19,000 and £10,000 made to the account in 1992 and 1995, but did not disclose this to the tribunal. It also said the source of a £20,000 sterling lodgement to the account remained unexplained.

The tribunal accepted the evidence of developer Tom Gilmartin that he was told by his one time partner Mr O’Callaghan, that Mr O’Callaghan told him he had made corrupt payments of £30,000 and £50,000 to Mr Ahern. It also accepted the evidence of broadcaster Eamon Dunphy that Mr O’Callaghan had implied or inferred to him, that such corrupt payments had been made to Mr Ahern in return for favours associated with the development of a shopping centre at Quarryvale, Dublin.

“Much of the explanation provided by Mr Ahern as to the source of the substantial funds identified and inquired into in the course of the tribunal’s public hearings was deemed by the tribunal to be untrue.”

This fact “rendered inconclusive” the tribunal’s inquiries into the possibility that Mr Ahern received corrupt payments from Mr O’Callaghan, the tribunal said.

For this reason, the tribunal could not “determine whether or not the payment to Mr Ahern of all or any of the funds in question were in fact made by, or initiated or arranged, directly or indirectly by Mr O’Callaghan, or by any other identifiable third party or parties.”