Picking up the bill to keep Bailey brothers in business

 

The hard-pressed taxpayers of Ireland are bailing out men who have shown utter contempt for the law, writes FINTAN O'TOOLE

IF YOU had only one word to explain the mess we’re in, the word would be impunity. And if you want to explain that impunity and its consequences, two simple statements would suffice. The first is that in almost any other democracy, Tom and Michael Bailey would be behind bars. The second is that the Irish taxpayer is bailing out their business.

There are three separate counts on which, in say the US or the UK, Michael and Tom Bailey would almost certainly have faced criminal sanctions. The first is massive tax evasion. In 2006, the Bailey company, Bovale Developments, reached a settlement of €22 million with the Revenue – believed to be the largest made. It resulted from an audit by the Revenue’s Special Investigations Branch going back 23 years to Bovale’s foundation in 1983.

Secondly, Mick Bailey engaged in bribery; making, according to the Flood tribunal reports, at least four corrupt payments, one to Ray Burke and three to the assistant Dublin city and county manager George Redmond. In paying these bribes, the Baileys did immense damage to both the political and planning systems, actively assisting the destruction of public confidence in the ability of public institutions to operate fairly and in the public interest.

Thirdly, the Baileys lied under oath and otherwise attempted to mislead and block a tribunal of inquiry established by the Oireachtas. Both of the Bailey brothers were found to have “hindered and obstructed” the Flood tribunal in a number of ways, including making untrue statements under oath. Mick Bailey was found to have given “false evidence” about a meeting with Ray Burke. He lied about money he had allegedly given to James Gogarty. He leaked information to the Sunday Independent and then claimed that he couldn’t co-operate with the tribunal because of his fear of leaks. Mick Bailey was also found to have given false evidence under oath in relation to meetings with George Redmond and dealings with him, including the payment of bribes.

Tom Bailey made a false allegation under oath about money he had given to James Gogarty. He also failed to provide the tribunal with financial records even when it obtained an order of discovery against him. Not only did Mick and Tom Bailey each give false evidence under oath, but the tribunal found that they had colluded together to tell the same lies. As the taxing master of the High Court put it in refusing to pay their legal costs, the Baileys engaged in “a deliberate attempt to ensure that the tribunal would never find the truth”.

There are, as you might expect, laws against this kind of thing, even in Ireland.

In almost any other democracy, it would be extraordinary for those whose company engaged in long-term tax evasion, who bribed public officials, give false evidence under oath and obstructed a public inquiry not to be prosecuted for all of these offences.

It would be utterly astonishing for them not to be prosecuted for any of them. Not alone, however, were the Bailey brothers not prosecuted, but they were still welcome guests at the Fianna Fáil tent at the Galway races.

And now we learn from Arthur Beesley’s story in yesterday’s Irish Times that Anglo Irish Bank, 100 per cent owned by the Irish people, is apparently propping up the Bailey’s British property development arm, Bovale Limited. The company has £76 million of credit due to be paid off within a year and would seem to be in imminent danger of insolvency.

Fear not, however. According to its accounts: “Over the course of recent months, the company’s directors have been in ongoing discussions with Anglo Irish Bank in order to ensure their continued support for the company’s operations.

“In the light of these discussions, the directors have a reasonable expectation that the company has adequate resources to continue in operational existence for the foreseeable future.”

This is what we’ve come to: the hard-pressed taxpayers of Ireland bailing out men who have shown utter contempt for the laws and institutions of the State and have shamelessly flaunted the fact that they got away with it.

The low (or perhaps more accurately, non-existent) ethical standards of the Baileys and their enablers within the political system fed into the culture of bad governance, pitiful regulation and cronyism that has had such disastrous consequences. It is particularly grotesque that one of those consequences is that we’re now going to be keeping the boys in business “for the foreseeable future”.

This has to be the test case in which we finally take a stand. Even if Anglo Irish is sucked in to supporting Bovale, it must do so on one simple condition – that the Bailey brothers must go.

No bank in its right mind should be putting money into a company controlled by people with a proven disregard for both legality and ethics. If a State bank does so, we’ll know for sure that when it comes to cleaning up the mess we’ve inherited, the State’s mind is still not right.

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