Wednesday 22 November 2017

Complaint from voter sparked invoice probe

Luke Byrne

Luke Byrne

FORMER Fianna Fail junior minister Ivor Callely sowed the seeds of yesterday's arrest on a November morning in 2007.

He had recently been appointed to the Seanad by then Taoiseach Bertie Ahern after losing a north Dublin Dail seat he had held since 1989.

Later, he submitted a number of claims -- under the Oireachtas direct purchase scheme (DPS) for mobile phones -- that totalled almost €3,000.

He said they were for historical phone purchases made between 2002 and 2006. However, the receipts that he used contained a number of glaring inconsistencies.

Business Communications, the company which had supposedly supplied the phones, went bust in 1994.

The invoices contained Irish punt symbols and six-digit phone numbers, though the euro was introduced in 2002 and a seventh phone digit was added to all Dublin numbers in 1994.

Oireachtas members were allowed to make a maximum claim of €750 under the DPS scheme every 18 months and the invoices were dated almost exactly to that period.

Two invoices shared the same misspelling of the word "received", rendering it as "recieved" instead.

When it was revealed that the receipts were forgeries in August 2010, Mr Callely initially defended the claims and that he was entitled to the money.

However, after a week of refusing to respond to questions, he was forced to concede that the invoices were bogus and the claims should not have been made.

In a statement issued through his solicitor, Mr Callely said that he repaid the money and insisted he received the fake invoices "in good faith" from another person.

James Baxter, one of the former directors of Business Communications, has always categorically denied he provided the invoices to Mr Callely.

Mr Baxter's partner in the business, Colm Parsons, committed suicide in May 2010 and it is understood that Mr Callely maintains that it was he who provided him with the receipts.

A member of the public submitted a complaint about the expenses to the clerk of the Seanad.

That complaint was passed to the upper-house's committee on members' interests which, in turn, passed it on to the State's ethics watchdog -- the Standards in Public Office Commission.

At the time Mr Callely was challenging the committee's earlier finding that he had misrepresented his normal place of residence to claim €80,000 in travel expenses to the High Court -- a challenge he eventually won.

Despite this, the former politician was arrested by gardai yesterday for questioning over the invoices.

Irish Independent

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