Sunday 11 December 2016

PAC votes against investigating fresh Ansbacher claims

Published 25/06/2015 | 12:08

Mary Lou McDonald
Mary Lou McDonald

The Dail spending watchdog has opted against investigating further claims by a civil servant about the alleged use of Ansbacher accounts by prominent figures to evade tax.

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The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) was informed during a private session this morning that further correspondence had been received from Department of Jobs official Gerard Ryan.

Previous claims by Mr Ryan caused a furore last year when the names of people he identified in a dossier were read out in the Dail  by Sinn Fein TD Mary Lou McDonald.

Those named, who included former Government ministers, vehemently denied the claims and some have threatened legal action.

The Oireachtas Committee on Procedures and Privileges subsequently found that Ms McDonald’s actions had been an abuse of privilege.

This morning, members of the PAC received a briefing from Oireachtas legal advisors on the potential legal ramifications for the committee if it was to investigate Mr Ryan’s latest claims.

Committee members were told the latest claims, related to the tax affairs of named individuals, were outside its remit.

The legal advisors said that if the documents was accepted by the committee it could be exposed to discovery applications from those named and that there was potential for further litigation, including defamation proceedings.

Members were not supplied with the documents submitted by Mr Ryan or briefed on the specifics of their contents.

Both Ms McDonald and Independent TD Shane Ross objected to this.

Mr Ross suggested that a redacted version of Mr Ryan’s latest claims be circulated to the members with the names left out.

After over an hour of discussion on the matter, the committee voted against examining the documents by a margin of ten to two.

Mr Ryan was an authorised officer appointed to examine the Ansbacher affair, where hundreds of high-profile individuals used an offshore scheme to evade tax between the late 1970s and the 1990s.

Ted McEnery, the clerk of the PAC, wrote to TDs on Wednesday informing them that Mr Ryan had made further claims.

“As the correspondence relates to the tax affairs of a number of named individuals, I referred it for legal advice because of a concern relating to privilege attaching to such a document if it was circulated,” he said.

“The legal advice I have now received is that because of a number of risks associated with receipt of such a document containing names, and as the investigation of the tax affairs of any individual is not within the remit of the committee, that I should notify members of the receipt of the document, that given the risks to the committee that it should not be made available to members prior to consideration of the legal issues associated with the correspondence.”

Previous allegations made by Mr Ryan were rejected by the Revenue Commissioners.

Last December, its then chairwoman, Josephine Feehily, said all leads generated by Mr Ryan had been investigated fully.

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