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'Political interference' stopped Revenue probe into Ansbacher 'black briefcase': Whistleblower

Allegations of a major cover-up are spreading from politicians to government officials.

Revenue chairwoman Josephine Feehily
Revenue chairwoman Josephine Feehily
Image: Mark Stedman/Photocall Ireland

Updated at 3.22pm

THE REVENUE COMMISSIONERS have been accused of being “grossly negligent” and part of a political cover-up over their claimed failure to fully investigate Ansbacher accounts linked to high-profile figures.

An Oireachtas Public Accounts Committee (PAC) was told the officials had ignored the evidence from a “black briefcase” which contained a “secret ledger” with information relating to alleged tax evasion via the offshore accounts.

The claim came from the dossier of Jobs Department whistleblower Gerry Ryan which was detailed at the committee today.

But the PAC also heard Revenue’s privacy provisions meant it was possible the allegations had been fully investigated and some of the figures may have even reached settlements without Ryan knowing.

Revenue officials, including chairwoman Josephine Feehily, were hauled before the committee this morning to explain their probe into the infamous offshore bank accounts which a number of former politicians allegedly used to evade Irish tax.

She said she had not seen the latest dossier Ryan had assembled and the commissioners’ dealings with the whistleblower, who was appointed as an authorised officer to investigate Ansbacher accounts between 2003 and 2004, had ended after he finished supplying them with information – the bulk of which had come before 2008.

I don’t know what (Ryan) has to substantiate his view. I don’t have the dossier.”

‘No effective action’ on Ansbacher accounts

Independent TD Shane Ross said the dossier included claims that several government ministers, the Revenue Commissioners and the Garda fraud squad, among others, failed to properly investigate the claimed wrongdoing.

Ross Independent TD Shane Ross at the committee today

“The problem that we have to address here today is what you didn’t do,” he told Feehily.

“(Ryan) goes on to talk about the failure, including by the Revenue Commissioners … (he says they) ‘took no effective action, by any of these agencies, to pursue these matters’.”

Ross said the whistleblower claimed two ministerial reports on the Ansbacher allegations were sent to Revenue without any meaningful action being taken into the “very lengthy” tax evasion, which had come at the expense of the Irish taxpayer.

(Ryan claimed) there was a failure on the part of the agencies of this state who were made aware of this information to act upon it and it is grossly negligent,” he said.

Mary Lou naming names

Under Dáil privilege, Sinn Féin TD Mary Lou McDonald yesterday named several former government ministers and TDs mentioned in Ryan’s dossier.

Many of those identified have strenuously denied any wrongdoing, while former Tánaiste Mary Harney denied being the one who shut down the inquiries because her colleagues were involved.

Today Feehily said it was the first time she had heard the allegations that Revenue had neglected its duty to investigate the claims.

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Feehily Josephine Feehily at the committee today

“These allegations haven’t been made to me by him or his ministers,” she said.

She said every document which had been given to Revenue relating to Ansbacher accounts had been investigated and to date 289 cases had been identified, netting €113 million in payouts for unpaid taxes, interest and penalties.

In addition, about €140 million extra had come from “spin-off” investigations, she added.

‘Political interference’

Ross said Ryan thought he had been “stymied” in his investigations was because of “political interference” aimed at top Garda, Revenue and ODCE officials.

What he is saying here is that he believes that there is a connection. (That they) didn’t properly investigate this because … there was a connection between them and the fact that the people at the top were politically appointed,” he said.

But Feehily said she “absolutely did not agree” that she had ever been subject to political interference. She added that Revenue had got very little new information about the Ansbacher accounts after 2003, when Ryan was working on the investigation.

She later agreed with Fine Gael TD John Deasy, who this morning accused McDonald of using the PAC for “political ends”, when he suggested some of those named in Ryan’s dossier may have reached settlements with Revenue and the whistleblower wouldn’t know.

READ: Mary Lou told: ‘You’ve been doing it for a while and you need to stop’ >

READ: Can the PAC interview a whistleblower who says former politicians dodged tax? >

About the author:

Peter Bodkin  / Editor, Fora

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