Saturday 16 December 2017

Lowry furious after Revenue sends 15 officials to raid home

Michael Lowry
Michael Lowry
The property near Holycross, Co Tipperary, owned by Michael Lowry that was raided by Revenue officials and a garda.

Tom Brady and Ralph Riegel

THE Revenue sent 15 officials accompanied by a garda and a locksmith to carry out a raid at former Fine Gael minister Michael Lowry's home.

New details of the operation emerged yesterday as Mr Lowry claimed the incident was "designed to pressurise and intimidate" him.

The officers spent several hours removing documentation from the property in Co Tipperary.

Mr Lowry said numerous documents were taken, including political statements, notes and bank statements.

The Independent TD, who has survived a slew of scandals over the years, said his right to confidential tax affairs had been "trampled upon".

He spoke out after becoming the first sitting TD to have his home raided by the taxman.

But he insisted the raid was unwarranted, heavy-handed and deliberately leaked.

"There was nothing new for them to find. There was nothing of significance taken from my office or from my home," he said.

The raid last Tuesday is linked to an investigation into his financial affairs.

Mr Lowry made a €1.4m settlement with the Revenue in 2007 after details emerged of secret payments to him and his refrigeration company by businessman Ben Dunne.

And he earlier availed of the tax amnesty, put in place in 1993 by then finance minister Bertie Ahern.

CERT

But yesterday he insisted his tax affairs were fully in order.

"I have no bill whatsoever from the Revenue Commissioners. I have a tax clearance cert for my business. There is no outstanding bill to Revenue and I have not been furnished with any such bill. Anybody who knows me knows I pay my bills.

"It was a fruitless exercise. I was baffled as to why there was any necessity to do it.

"This raid was unnecessary because of the level of co-operation we were giving them."

The father of three said he was upset by the raid and told no one about what had happened. He claimed it was intentionally leaked to the media.

"I knew they would leak it. Typically, they did leak it. But by doing what they did they have certainly infringed my right to have my tax affairs dealt with in a confidential manner," he said.

Mr Lowry confirmed that his solicitor had written to the Revenue Commissioners, who last night declined to comment on the matter.

The TD insisted Revenue officials had conducted a single raid on his property last Tuesday that lasted more than three hours.

However, the Irish Independent understands officials visited the property last week but did not enter the house or the grounds.

Officers returned last Tuesday with a warrant, a garda in a support role, and a locksmith on standby in case they were unable to access the house, which is protected by electronic security gates.

Fifteen officials, accompanied by the garda, entered the gated property which is less than one kilometre from the picturesque village of Holycross.

Mr Lowry said that the raid left a woman who was working in the house "traumatised and distressed".

She initially believed the men who had surrounded the property were burglars, he said.

"She was traumatised by the event and very upset. I spoke to her this morning and she is still very distressed by it," he said.

Mr Lowry, in an interview with Tipp FM, added: "To be quite honest, I was appalled by it.

"It was an outrageous invasion of my privacy and my family home. Everybody, all my staff, found their presence both imposing and intimidating."

Mr Lowry, who has been an Independent TD in Tipperary North for 16 years, resigned from the Fine Gael parliamentary Party in 1997 after revelations in the Irish Independent about his business dealings with Mr Dunne.

He has been elected on the first count in all subsequent elections.

Mr Lowry was one of the key figures involved in the Moriarty Tribunal, whose findings were highly critical of him when published in 2011.

The report found that his role, when minister, in the awarding of Ireland's second mobile phone licence in 1995 was both "disgraceful and insidious".

The politician vehemently rejected the findings and claimed the Moriarty Report was "factually wrong".

Taoiseach Enda Kenny last May refused to re-open the Moriarty Tribunal after the 'Sunday Independent' published transcripts of a tape relating to a payment made by Mr Lowry to Northern Ireland "land scout" Kevin Phelan.

Irish Independent

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