'They (the tribunal) have been invasive and intrusive. They scoured the world looking for this phantom money I was supposed to have'
DISGRACED former minister Michael Lowry has issued a 10-page statement slamming the Moriarty Tribunal investigating payments to politicians.
The tribunal has spent 11 years probing Mr Lowry and the awarding by his department of the second mobile phone licence in 1996 -- the biggest contract ever awarded by the State to a company.
The detailed criticism of the tribunal by Mr Lowry, now an Independent TD for Tipperary North, comes as publication of the report is imminent.
Mr Lowry is just as critical of the tribunal as businessman Denis O'Brien whose company Digifone was awarded the licence and who also strongly criticised the tribunal in newspaper interviews last year.
Last night, Mr Lowry was accused by veteran tribunal watchers of launching a pre-emptive strike before the findings of the tribunal were published.
Mr O'Brien and Mr Lowry based their criticisms on interim findings by the chairman, Mr Justice Moriarty, and circulated to them by the tribunal in October 2008.
Michael Lowry denied yesterday that his lengthy statement was a "pre-emptive strike" against the Moriarty Tribunal. He said the issues in its impending report were so serious that he wanted to make his position public.
"I didn't realise that the tribunal, in particular, were querying the integrity and the approach of the senior civil servants. And I certainly didn't realise that there was an inference that the officials in the department colluded with me. That is a serious charge," he said.
Mr Lowry said he had asserted his right to be re-called as a witness because numerous issues had arisen since he gave evidence as a witness in 2005 on the awarding of the second mobile phone licence to Esat.
"That question as to whether or not I influenced the officials and that they were doing my bidding, that was never put to me in the box. I never heard of that until the provisional findings came about," he said.
Mr Lowry also said that the Moriarty Tribunal had never put it to him that the officials in his department breached the rules -- with his approval -- by allowing businessman Dermot Desmond's IIU bank to take 20pc in the winning Esat consortium.
"It's my character, it's my reputation, it's my future that's at stake here," he said. "To be quite honest, I feel offended and annoyed that senior counsels to tribunals who are getting €14,000 a week couldn't find one day to give me in the box to clarify and address issues."
Mr Lowry agreed that Judge Michael Moriarty had probably decided that he had heard enough of his evidence.
"This tribunal have ravaged me for 11 years. They have been invasive and intrusive. They scoured the world looking for this phantom money I was supposed to have. They went through my business accounts and my personal accounts and could find nothing amiss because I could match every lodgement with the source of the funds," he said.
Mr Lowry said the tribunal had also checked the bank accounts of his mother, five brothers, his sister, his two sons and his daughter.
He said he did not believe that the tribunal's findings would lead to the State facing a costly legal action from those who had lost out in the mobile phone licence process.
"It is my view that the State has nothing to be concerned about in terms of damages claimed from the State," he said.
Mr Lowry also said he did not fear the prospect of further investigations into his own affairs by state bodies after the publication of the report.
He said he had already been investigated by the Revenue Commissioners and numerous other bodies and inquiries.
He did not rule out taking legal action against the Moriarty Tribunal after the publication of its report, which he said he expected within a week.
"I have given full co-operation to the tribunal. But if I do find that our integrity and decision making is questioned in such a serious manner, then I will consult and see what I should do," he said.