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Ansbacher: 10-year time limit on prosecutions is ‘fair and balanced’

Not one person has been prosecuted over the biggest tax evasion scheme to be uncovered in Ireland.

The Ansbacher Reports
The Ansbacher Reports
Image: Photocall Ireland!

ALTHOUGH IT WAS one of the biggest scandals to hit Ireland and the largest tax evasion scheme uncovered by the State, not one prosecution was brought in relation to the Ansbacher accounts scam.

Minister for Finance Michael Noonan said that he would, in response to the revelation, give careful consideration to any proposals that might be put to him in connection with prosecution-related legislation. He explained that it was not possible to convict anybody because 10 years or more had elapsed from the time the offences were committed.

However, Noonan told Deputy Pádraig MacLochlainn in answer to a parliamentary question this week that time limits are a feature of the legal system for evidential and fairness reasons.

“The 10-year limitation on bringing prosecutions provided for in the Taxes Consolidation Act is generally regarded as a balanced timeframe,” he added.

Despite the lack of convictions, Revenue continues to hunt down those who profited from the Ansbacher accounts. Investigations to-date have yielded €112.71 million from 142 people. That sum is made up of €49.05 million in unpaid tax and €63.66 million in penalties.

The Ansbacher accounts ran from 1971 and the Irish business was not wound up until the mid-1990s. As well as the statute of limitations, Revenue ran into problems while trying to obtain original documents as there was no legal mechanism to compel Caymen Island entities to produce them.

“I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that they undertook detailed and extensive investigations into the operation of the Ansbacher accounts and the tax affairs of the Irish resident account-holders,” continued Noonan.

“This involved the extensive use of legislative powers requiring the production by financial institutions and other third parties of books, records and documentation relevant to the tax liabilities of the account-holders. They found the accounts system operated to be complex and secretive with Irish depositors funds held offshore and no record of the deposits in the State although the depositors had access to their funds in the State.”

Names belonging to “the great and the good of Irish society” appeared in the Ansbacher report of July 2002.

The clandestine sham bank was used by clients to evade paying millions of pounds in taxes in Ireland. Its activities first came to light in 1997, decades after the business was established by Des Traynor, the late financial adviser to former Taoiseach Charles Haughey.

Clients would deposit millions of pounds with Ansbacher which was then treated as an offshore lodgement.

The report itself cost €3.2 million to compile, took three years to write, ran to 10,000 pages and weighed 25 kilos.

Taoiseach says Ireland does not give special tax deals

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