Saturday 27 December 2014

Sentencing hearing of Ivor Callely on charges of fraudulently using invoice

Shane Phelan Public Affairs Editor

Published 22/07/2014 | 12:46

Ivor Callely pictured  at the Courts of Criminal Justice .
22/7/14
Pic Frank Mc Grath
Ivor Callely pictured at the Courts of Criminal Justice .Pic Frank Mc Grath
Ivor Callely pictured at the Courts of Criminal Justice . Pic Frank Mc Grath
Ivor Callely pictured at the Courts of Criminal Justice . Pic Frank Mc Grath
Ivor Callely pictured at the Courts of Criminal Justice . Pic Frank Mc Grath

FORMER junior minister Ivor Callely has admitted three further counts of fraudulently using false invoices to claim mobile phone expenses.

The ex-Fianna Fail TD entered the pleas at his sentencing hearing at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court.

Judge Mary Ellen Ring adjourned the proceedings until Monday so she can read a submission Callely made to the Standards in Public Office Commission.

The 56-year-old, with an address at St Lawrence's Road, Clontarf, north Dublin had entered a plea of guilty last March to one count, a few weeks before he had been due to stand trial.

At the outset of proceedings today he admitted another three.

He faced allegations that he used invoices as false instruments to receive expenses for handsets and equipment under the Oireachtas members' direct purchase mobile phone scheme.

The offences involved four false invoices from the Business Communication Limited which were used to claim expenses when he was a senator between 2007 and 2009. They also involved two further invoices from two other companies, Intec Ireland Ltd and Allstat Ltd.

The invoices amounted to €4,207 for mobile phones, car kits, insurance and two Blackberry devices, even though two of the companies in question had ceased trading before the invoices were purportedly issued.

A Garda Bureau of Fraud Investigation (GBFI) probe was launched after the false invoices were exposed in a newspaper report.

The court heard evidence from Sergeant Adrian Kelly of the GBFI, who examined the expenses claims made by Callely.

Under cross examination from Dominic McGinn SC, he confirmed Callely had made inquiries with the Houses of the Oireachtas section which handles expenses, known as the One Stop Shop.

It indicated to him that it was possible to make retrospective claims.

Callely subsequently submitted a number of claims in November 2007. Further claims were made up to December 2009.

After a journalist submitted a freedom of information request to the Houses of the Oireachtas in 2010 seeking information about sums claimed by Callely under the scheme, the then senator asked to inspect his file.

He subsequently withdrew the first four claims, relating to the Business Communication Limited invoices, and forwarded a cheque for €2,879 to Oireachtas authorities.

A short time later, he withdrew the fifth claim and enclosed a cheque for €737.

When gardai contacted a former director of Business Communication Limited, Kevin Baxter, he confirmed the invoices were not genuine.

The denominations on the invoices were in punts and the letterhead on the invoice contained a phone number which was too short. One of the mobile phone models listed on an invoice had never existed.

A former director for Intec Ireland Ltd confirmed it had ceased trading before February 2008, when its invoice was dated. The director confirmed the company had never supplied Callely with any such invoice.

The sergeant testified that Alstat Ltd was trading and was in the business of providing mobile phone equipment.

However, the invoice he supplied to the Oireachtas had been a duplicate document, which combined two purchases Callely had made at an earlier date.

After Callely was arrested in January 2012 and taken to Irishtown Garda Station for questioning, he denied any wrongdoing and said he had already made a full statement to the Standards in Public Office Commission.

He also claimed he did not recognise the invoices when they were shown to him.

Later in his questioning he suggested a former business associate might have been responsible for the invoices.

Callely went on to tell gardai he had obtained a bunch of old invoices from a company called the Telephone Man, which was now being run by Mr Baxter, because he had been too busy to keep a record of invoices at the time he bought mobile phones and equipment.

Callely also supplied gardai with a list of mobile phones he had during time period covered by the invoices, but Sgt Kelly said some of these were actually phones owned by family members.

The court heard character evidence from a representative of a local resource group and his former parish priest, Fr Dermot Leycock.

"He worked long hours and was available to us morning, noon and night," the priest said.

Callely's counsel Michael O'Higgins SC said his client had "taken a shortcut in giving bogus receipts".

He said Callely had suffered "a number of pretty serious personal, political and financial setback in recent years."

These included the break up of his marriage 12 months ago and an €11m court judgment against him over a failed property venture.

Mr O'Higgins said that Callely had suffered "a significant fall from grace" and "would continue to pay a significant price for that".

He said his client had suffered "enormous anxiety" as well as "humiliation and shame in his community".

He described the offences as "at the lower end of things" and "significantly lesser" than other deceptions which had come before the courts.

Callely served as a junior health minister and junior transport minister between 2002 and 2005.

However, he had to resign following revelations one of the country's biggest building companies, John Paul Construction, paid for work which was carried out at his home in Clontarf.

He lost his Dail seat in the 2007 general election and also failed to get elected to the Seanad. However, he was appointed to the upper house by then Taoiseach Bertie Ahern, where he remained until 2011.

He was subsequently suspended from the Seanad for 20 days without pay after it emerged he had claimed expenses for travelling to Leinster House from his holiday home in west Cork.

A committee on members' interests found he had misrepresenting his normal place of residence for the purpose of claiming over €80,000 in allowances.

Callely challenged his suspension in the High Court and won his case.

However, this was subsequently overturned by the Supreme Court.

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