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Saturday 17 November 2018

Bank moves to block Harney's Ansbacher inquiry

A BANK is contesting a move by Tanaiste Mary Harney to investigate the operation of the Ansbacher deposits.Ms Harney has instructed an officer from her Department of Enterprise and Employment to seek details of the deposits in relation to an inquiry into the affairs of Celtic Helicopters. Ciaran Haughey, son of former Taoiseach Charles Haughey, is a director of the firm.

But the Irish Intercontinental Bank (IIB) has obtained an interim injunction temporarily blocking the inquiry, and leave to seek a judicial review of the minister's decision.

The review application is listed for the High Court today.

The Ansbacher accounts were discovered by the McCracken Tribunal which found that they contained money from a number of Irish depositors and, in 1989, this amounted to as much as £38m.

The deposits were held by Ansbacher Cayman Ltd, a bank in the Cayman Islands founded by the late Des Traynor. The money was transferred to general accounts opened by Ansbacher in two Irish banks Guinness & Mahon and, later, the IIB. Guinness & Mahon is not a party to the High Court challenge.

The McCracken report found that funds from the Ansbacher deposits had been used to benefit Celtic Helicopters; in one instance a bank loan to the firm was repaid from the deposits.

Shortly before the report was published Ms Harney instructed an officer from her department to examine the affairs of Celtic Helicopters and to look for possible breaches of company law.

The officer, Gerard Ryan, was of the opinion that he needed access to the Ansbacher deposits to complete his inquiries. If allowed to proceed, his investigation is likely to open up the operation of the Ansbacher deposits to wider scrutiny.

Ciaran Haughey told the McCracken Tribunal he had not known the money used to pay off the loan came from the Ansbacher deposits. He said he had thought the money came from his own company's funds.

The tribunal was told that money from the deposits was used to support loans to Celtic Helicopters totalling £250,000 from Guinness & Mahon bank in 1990 and IIB in 1991. Mr Haughey said he had not been aware that Ansbacher money had bee used to back these loans.

The Ansbacher deposits were a closely guarded secret until their discovery by the McCracken tribunal which found they had been in place since 1970, if not earlier.

Money was deposited in the Cayman Islands bank which in turn deposited the money in a general account in Dublin.

The account was first opened with Guinness & Mahon but transferred to IIB between 1989 and 1991.

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