Lowry could face being hit with Revenue probe
Ben Dunne paid Christmas bonus at TD's firm but staff never got it
Published 26/03/2011 | 05:00
MICHAEL Lowry could be facing another tax probe after the Moriarty Tribunal's report was referred to the Revenue Commissioners.
He paid a €1.4m tax settlement to the Revenue in 2007 to settle outstanding tax and penalties which had arisen following the revelations from the McCracken Tribunal into payments to him by businessman Ben Dunne.
But the Moriarty Report has now highlighted a series of controversial property deals involving Mr Lowry.
A Revenue spokeswoman confirmed last night that the 2,400-page tribunal report had been referred to it on foot of a request from Communications Minister Pat Rabbitte.
"The Revenue Commissioners have asked a senior official to examine the report to establish whether there are any new matters which require attention," she said.
Mr Lowry's representatives have previously told the Revenue that no basis for taxation was disclosed in three controversial transactions:
- The lodgment of IR£147,000 in his offshore account in the Isle of Man by an associate of businessman Denis O'Brien. Mr Lowry later returned this sum.
- The purchase of a house in Mansfield, England in the name of Mr Lowry for stg£250,000 in 1999. He retains a 10pc share.
- A plan by Mr Lowry to buy a property in Cheadle, England. The tribunal said he received a payment from Mr O'Brien in the form of support for a loan of stg£420,000 in 1999.
It also emerged last night that the previous Revenue investigation into Mr Lowry's tax affairs found that Ben Dunne had given him IR£34,500 to pay Christmas bonuses to the staff of his refrigeration company Garuda, between 1989 and 1992. But the report said "most reprehensibly", all of the Christmas bonus payments intended for the staff appeared to have been taken by Mr Lowry himself.
The Revenue gave Garuda a 55pc reduction, worth €447,000, in its bill. It said this was because the company would have gone into liquidation if the full amount had been demanded. Garuda paid €1m of Mr Lowry's overall tax settlement of €1.4m
But Mr Lowry is now planning to pursue the Moriarty Tribunal for his massive legal costs, despite its findings that he received payments from businessman Denis O'Brien.
He told the Irish Independent that he was seeking "substantial costs likely to run into millions" of euro.
And he said the support for him in his Tipperary North constituency had always been steadfast because people understood that "this trial of 14 years is unjust and unfair".
In another development last night, Justice Minister Alan Shatter criticised attacks on the judiciary following the publication of the tribunal report. He said judges were not able to respond due to their need to protect their independent role.
"Statements which endanger public confidence in our judiciary and in our courts are entirely unacceptable and are to be deplored," he said.
Mr Shatter's statement came after Mr O'Brien made strong criticisms of Mr Justice Michael Moriarty during an interview on the 'Today With Pat Kenny' show yesterday.
Enda Kenny continued to hold back last night from definitively calling for Mr Lowry to resign ahead of next week's Dail debate on the report.
Speaking at the end of the EU summit in Brussels, he said: "I made the point that in an ideal world a deputy in this situation should resign. So I intend to speak in the debate myself when it comes up," he said.
Mr Kenny was asked to clarify if he believed that Mr Lowry should resign but he declined to go further, saying only that his Government had referred the report to the the Revenue, the gardai and the DPP.
He added: "Obviously, I made the point that Deputy Lowry, who is centrally involved in this Moriarty Report, where there are serious allegations, should go into the House and answer those charges," he said.