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Tuesday 2 September 2014

Moriarty tribunal: Haughey stole ?45m

Published 20/12/2006 | 00:11

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DISGRACED former Taoiseach Charles J Haughey stole ?45m in today's money from taxpayers, Fianna Fail and his best friend's medical fund. The full extent of Mr Haughey's corruption is laid bare in a long-awaited 700-page report by the Moriarty Tribunal. Opposition leaders last night described the report's findings as a "damning indictment" of Mr Haughey and a "documentary of corruption in Irish politics".

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DISGRACED former Taoiseach Charles J Haughey stole ?45m in today's money from taxpayers, Fianna Fail and his best friend's medical fund.

The full extent of Mr Haughey's corruption is laid bare in a long-awaited 700-page report by the Moriarty Tribunal.

Opposition leaders last night described the report's findings as a "damning indictment" of Mr Haughey and a "documentary of corruption in Irish politics".

The report reveals Mr Haughey was on the take for up to ?11.6m, or ?45m in modern day terms, and accepted cash for favours over a 17-year period.

It also says the former Fianna Fail leader dipped into the funds raised for Brian Lenihan's liver transplant and took money for his own personal use.

Taxpayers are now likely to have to foot Mr Haughey's estimated ?20m legal fees arising from his dealings with the tribunal.

The estate left by Mr Haughey is also highly unlikely to be touched, despite the overwhelming evidence of wrongdoing and corruption exposed in the long-awaited report.

Mr Haughey's costs are expected to be covered by the tribunal because the report contains no specific finding that he obstructed or hindered its work.

Legal sources said it would be virtually impossible to withhold the costs because this finding is not directly included in the body of the report.

Mr Justice Michael Moriarty's report says parts of Mr Haughey's evidence was "unacceptable and are rejected" and "unbelievable".

The judge also says Mr Haughey delayed the tribunal for three-and-a-half years with legal challenges that "provided no constructive assistance to the tribunal".

On these grounds, if he decided not to award costs for Mr Haughey's legal team, then the Haughey family would have the pay the bill from their father's estate.

The former Taoiseach is arguably damaged most by the findings on Mr Lenihan's medical fund.

Up to ?336,000 was raised for the fund, but no more than ?89,000 was needed for the expenses.

And Mr Haughey continued to raise money for the Lenihan fund even when he knew there was enough to cover the medical costs.

"The tribunal is satisfied that a sizeable proportion of the excess funds collected was misappropriated by Mr Haughey for his personal use," the report says.

The Haughey family last night angrily rejected the its conclusions.

In a strongly-worded statement, the family said "allegations of political corruption were unfounded on the basis of evidence".

They described some of the findings as "perverse".

They rejected its claim that Mr Haughey had misappropriated money from the Brian Lenihan medical fund for his personal use.

"Mr Haughey's belief always was that more money was expended on the late Mr Lenihan's medical treatment than was accounted for," the statement said.

Mr Haughey pocketed secret payments totalling 171 times his gross salary between 1979 and 1996.

The tribunal calculates that when his annual salary was just ?67,000, the funds available were ?11.65m - ?45m in today's money.

The favours he did for wealthy businessmen included repeatedly intervening with the taxman on behalf of supermarket magnate Ben Dunne.

The pressure Mr Haughey put on the Revenue Commissioners resulted in "a complete about turn in the consistent thinking of the Revenue over the previous two years".

As a result, Dunnes Stores saved ?23m at a time when the country was in dire financial straits.

However, Mr Dunne angrily rejected the findings.

Cheques

Mr Haughey also received a ?63,000 payment from a Saudi diplomat and businessman to provide Irish passports and not as a payment for a horse.

Taoiseach Bertie Ahern is cleared of any wrongdoing for signing blank cheques from the Fianna Fail leader's allowance.

The tribunal says Mr Ahern, a former accountant, did not know the funds were being used inappropriately by Mr Haughey.

But it said the practice of pre-signing chequers facilitated the misuse of the account and was "inappropriate and imprudent".

The report says Mr Haughey "lived a lifestyle and incurred expenditure vastly beyond the scale" of his income.

And it concludes Mr Haughey "devalued the quality of a modern democracy".

Fionnan Sheahan, Brian Dowling and Gene McKenna

Related Links:

Haughey took €250,000 from his sick friend's lifeline fund

How Charles Haughey lived way beyond our means . . .

Glaring silence is last of many betrayals of Brian Lenihan

Report is just a teaser for the judge's final indictment

Blank cheque Bertie

How Charlie sought tax bill cut of £23m for Ben

No such thing as a free Charvet shirt, probe concludes

'I was a very sick man and I never was a liar'

Report lacks the razor-sharp clarity of Flood's findings

'Natural lawyer' with a zeal to fight corruption

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