Saturday 18 November 2017

Callely: I got €1,500 from invoice firm chief's son

Embattled senator faces three investigations over expenses

Fiach Kelly, Michael Brennan, Shane Phelan and Ralph Riegel

SENATOR Ivor Callely claimed he got a €1,500 donation from the son of a director of the company at the centre of the alleged forged invoices scandal, the Irish Independent has learned.

The embattled senator told an Oireachtas ethics watchdog he received the donation from Kevin Baxter for a golf classic in 2005, records from the Standards in Public Office Commission reveal.

Mr Baxter's father, James, was the director of Business Communications Limited, the now-defunct company whose invoices were submitted by Mr Callely to support his expenses claims.

The revelation comes as it emerged Mr Callely now potentially faces three separate investigations into his alleged behaviour.

However, Mr Baxter last night said he could not remember making the donation and did not have any record of it.

When asked if he had made the donation to Mr Callely, he insisted: "Me, no, not personally. I have no record of it anyway.

"At this stage I have nothing more to say," he added, and declined to respond to further queries.

The donor's address, as listed by Mr Callely, is that of Kevin Baxter, 42 Fairview Strand -- Mr Baxter's former business address. His company -- Baxter Data and Voice -- has since relocated to a different business park on Dublin's northside.

The address on the alleged forged invoices submitted to the Oireachtas by Mr Callely -- which he used to claim €3,000 for mobile phones and car kits between 2002 and 2006 -- is Business Communications Limited, 42a Fairview Strand. However, Business Communications Limited went bust in 1994.

James Baxter has stated he did not know anything about the alleged forged invoices. He also insisted he did not know anything about the €1,500 donation to Mr Callely when contacted by the Irish Independent.

Mr Callely will be questioned by gardai about the alleged forged invoices after a TD lodged an official complaint at his local garda station yesterday.

The Green Party's Paul Gogarty, who has also written to the Seanad complaining about Mr Callely's alleged conduct, went to Lucan garda station asking for an investigation to be carried out.

The Dublin Mid-West TD said he made the move because of public anger.

"In that context, I went to the garda station . . . requested an investigation formally; (I) acknowledge that I have no role in influencing the investigation in any way, except to bring it to their attention, and gave my details," Mr Gogarty said.

Gardai last night confirmed they had received "a number of requests seeking investigations into allegations published in the media concerning a named member of Seanad Eireann".

A garda spokesman added that Commissioner Fachtna Murphy had written to the clerk of Seanad Eireann seeking clarification of "certain matters".

Mr Callely, who is believed to be staying in his holiday home in west Cork, could not be contacted for comment yesterday.


Garda sources said it could be a number of weeks before Mr Callely was questioned about the mobile phone and car-kit invoices, if a criminal investigation were to proceed.

Senior garda sources said officers would have to establish the basic facts of the case before deciding if there was any need to question him.

In such a case, the first course of action would be to obtain copies of Mr Callely's mobile phone expense claims from the Oireachtas. Statements would also be taken from relevant Oireachtas officials to sketch out a chain of events, determining where, when and by whom the expense claims were lodged.

The invoices would also be examined for any inconsistencies that would suggest they were false.

Detectives would then speak to those involved with the defunct company whose invoices were submitted by Mr Callely to support his expenses claims.

"It would only be after all the facts are gathered that we would be in a position to interview Mr Callely," the source told the Irish Independent.

The Seanad committee on members' interests -- which previously investigated Mr Callely's €81,000 travel expenses claims from his west Cork holiday home -- is due to meet at the end of this month to consider launching its own investigation.

Earlier this week, Fianna Fail bowed to mounting pressure and suspended Mr Callely, without prejudice, pending the completion of an internal investigation.

The senator was suspended from the Seanad last month without pay for 20 days after an inquiry found he intentionally misrepresented where he lived for the purpose of claiming allowances worth €81,000.

Despite intense pressure to answer the allegations, Mr Callely remained hidden from view again yesterday.

Irish Independent

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