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Secretary General on tax dossier: 'No effort would have been made to suppress information'

Enda Kenny addressed the latest claims in the Dáil this afternoon.

The Revenue Commissioners offices at Dublin Castle
The Revenue Commissioners offices at Dublin Castle
Image: Laura Hutton/Photocall Ireland

Updated 22.23pm

A FORMER SECRETARY GENERAL at the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment has said he is “quite confident” that a decision to wind up a tax evasion investigation had nothing to do with any discoveries by the Authorised Officer.

Speaking to RTÉ’s Prime Time, Paul Haran said the probe “would have been done by the book” and that the Minister would have been “ruthless” if politically sensitive names had emerged.

“The Minister would have wanted the proper authorities to have it as soon as possible – rather than keep it within the Department,” he told political correspondent Katie Hannon.

“That’s why we set up the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement. The view was you can’t have ministers dealing with sensitive investigations such as this.

“I am absolutely clear that no effort would have been made to suppress information. The Minister’s desire was that the information should go to the proper authorities. Asking somebody to complete the report was a part of that.

Everything was about getting this out of the political world. She wanted to see all of this moved out of the Department and into the right domain.

“The ODCE, the Gardaí and the Revenue had the resources to deal with this. At a certain stage you have to pass it on to the proper authorities to do the real investigating. That was both the Minister’s and the Department’s view.’

However, Haran said he does recall offering a completion bonus to the civil servant in charge of the investigation.

He acknowledged that it may have been open to misinterpretation.

“The person might have suffered career-wise…the core goal was to have this work wrapped up and passed on to the proper authorities… Anything that would have been done would be to respond to the human issue of someone who had been working on something for a very long period of time. You want to see someone moving on. Maybe it was open to misinterpretation… The goal would have been to look after the person. To make sure that he’s fairly treated.  To give him something to recognise the work.”

He said if he had known how long the investigation was going to take he might have organised things in a different way.

“After a certain period of time I would have felt that investigations of this type would best be done in a properly resourced independent office.

 The main thing I worry about is that innocent names may be bandied about unfairly.

The whistleblower is claiming that in 2003 and 2004 he uncovered evidence that former politicians were the beneficial owners of accounts in the Cayman Islands that were linked to the Ansbacher controversy.

Also this evening, the Revenue Commissioners has published a statement on its Ansbacher Investigation.

It said that it could not provide information in relation to the tax affairs of named individuals or publish a list of cases except where they meet the criteria for publication in the Tax Defaulter’s List.

Of the 289 cases in the Ansbacher investigations, 283 are finalised and enquiries into the remaining six are “well advanced”. The yield from the Ansbacher investigation as at 31 December 2013 was €112.77m from 143 cases.

Earlier….

  • Taoiseach Enda Kenny has said the whistleblower at the centre of this controversy must be protected.
  • Richard Bruton has confirmed that Gerry Ryan’s witness statement had been submitted to the relevant authorities later confirmed as the Garda Bureau of Fraud Investigation.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny has said that the whistleblower at the centre of allegations that former senior politicians were part of a tax evasion scheme must be protected.

Gerry Ryan, a Department of Jobs civil servant who was authorised to investigate the alleged tax evasion scheme, has expressed dissatisfaction with how information he uncovered was dealt with by ministers of various governments and state agencies.

He has forwarded a dossier containing the allegations to the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) which is set to receive legal advice on how it is to proceed with the claims in a private meeting tomorrow evening.

This morning it was confirmed that a statement about the claims, requested the Garda Fraud Bureau and made by Ryan under the Companies Act, has now been forwarded to garda unit two years after it was first submitted to the Department of Jobs.

Kenny repeated in the Dáil today that the submission of the statement had been delayed by retirements in the department. The Taoiseach said he was briefed by Jobs Minister Richard Bruton on the issue last Saturday.

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He said the whistleblower was the first “to produce documentation under the protected disclosures legislation which is a major piece of reform which I welcome very much” and said the official “must be protected”.

He also told the Dáil that Bruton has not met the whistleblower but is willing to do so. Kenny said it was his understanding that the whistleblower “says he would be glad to do so”.

‘Constrained’

In his statement this morning, Richard Bruton confirmed that Ryan’s witness statement had been submitted to the relevant authorities later confirmed as the Garda Bureau of Fraud Investigation.

“Following finalisation of the various procedural matters under legislation and advice from officials, the statement under the Companies Act 1990 has now been forwarded to the relevant authorities,” Bruton said in a statement this morning.

He said that he is “constrained” in what he can say about the issue as it may be the subject of investigations and future court cases.

The Fine Gael TD said that it would be “extremely unwise” for any minister or politician to interfere with investigations by independent state agencies.

“Bodies like the Revenue Commissioners, the ODCE, the Gardai, the DPP and tribunals are independent precisely to ensure that politicians are kept out of investigating issues like tax evasion,” Bruton said.

Echoing his statement at the weekend, Bruton said that all matters contained in Ryan’s statement are covered by documents already submitted to the relevant authorities between 2004 and 2010.

Entitled

Yesterday, Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald said that if the whistleblower who handed over a dossier detailing the allegations feels dissatisfied with previous investigations, he is within his rights to come forward.

Speaking at Garda Headquarters in the Phoenix Park, Minister Fitzgerald said that these allegations have been investigated before.

She said the whistleblower “he or she, are perfectly within their rights to come forward if there is further information or if they’re unsatisfied and certainly all will be done to ensure those concerns are addressed”.

If the whistleblower feels they haven’t been investigated enough, certainly the Government would want to see them investigated.

Meanwhile, RTÉ reported that Taoiseach Enda Kenny said that the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation last made contact with the Office of the Attorney General about the dossier in December 2010.

Fitzgerald said that it is very important that the Protected Disclosures Act 2014 is in place, as it is believed this is the first time the new whistleblower legislation has been used.

- additional reporting Christina Finn and Sinéad O’Carroll 

First published 7pm on 10 November 2014

Explainer: What’s all this about a whistleblower, a dossier and some politicians dodging tax

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About the author:

Hugh O'Connell

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