Tuesday 20 March 2018

Ham-fisted fraud details not noticed by Oireachtas officials

Ivor Callely's former ofiice in Killester.
Ivor Callely's former ofiice in Killester.
Shane Phelan

Shane Phelan

It involved clearly bogus invoices from companies which no longer existed.

The denomination on one set of invoices was the punt, even though the euro had long been in circulation. Not only that, but the phone number for the company was too short. Six digit listings had not existed in Dublin since the early 1990s.

Remarkably, these details were not noticed by Oireachtas officials when they paid out expenses claims totalling €4,207.45 to Callely between 2007 and 2009.

The case raises serious questions about the administration of the mobile phone expenses scheme, which allows TDs and senators to claim €750 every 18 months.

Callely also made claims retrospectively after inquiring if this was possible. But with no documentation to back up such claims, he manufactured his own. It took a Freedom of Information request from a journalist for the ruse to be rumbled. Once the request was submitted, Callely quickly withdrew five of the six claims he had made and repaid the money.

When gardai got involved, detectives quickly found that two of the companies which Callely claimed sold him the phones were no longer in business. A third company said that while it had sold phone equipment to Callely, the invoice he had submitted to the Oireachtas was a conflation of two previous sales to him.

But even when confronted with these facts, the former minister tried to bluff his way through six interviews with detectives at Irishtown garda station.

Callely claimed he didn't recognise the invoices he himself had submitted. Then he suggested that a business partner who had committed suicide in 2009 may have been responsible.

When detectives searched his office in Killester they found several blank documents with the letterheads of one of the defunct companies. Callely's diary was also found to contain an entry reminding him when the 18-month claim period had elapsed so that another claim could be submitted.

Judge Mary Ellen Ring touched upon these discoveries when explaining why she was jailing Callely for five months.

She said the retention of the blank company letterheads could not be overlooked. The judge also said that the final expenses claim, involving the amalgamation of two invoices, was "a direct manipulation of the system".

Irish Independent

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