Saturday 24 March 2018

Lowry tax probe now 'criminal' - Revenue

Independent TD Michael Lowry
Independent TD Michael Lowry


THE investigation by the Revenue Commissioners into the tax affairs of independent TD Michael Lowry has now become a criminal matter.

The development comes after an admission by the Tipperary North TD in the Lowry Tapes published in this newspaper that he "never declared" a sum of £250,000 and that he "never put that through my books or my account or anything".

This was used by the Revenue to ground the warrant that allowed the raid on the former Fine Gael minister's home last month.

Revenue staff, aided by local gardai, took away a substantial amount of documentation for examination when they carried out the raid on the property near Holycross in north Tipperary.

The admission by Mr Lowry in relation to the controversial payment was first revealed in the Lowry Tapes, published by the Sunday Independent last February.

It has now transpired that the commissioners are conducting a "criminal investigation" into the matter. This is being done using powers under Section 1078 of the Taxes Consolidation Act 1997, as amended, which carries a maximum penal sentence of up to five years for anyone convicted of knowingly giving false information to the Revenue.

A spokesperson for the commissioners said last week that they were unable to comment on an individual case and could not indicate what progress, if any, had been made in the investigation.

Section 851 A of the Taxes Consolidation Act prohibits the commissioners from publicly commenting on a current investigation.

But it is understood their investigators have been in contact with a number of persons who they believe can help them, and are trying to interview those they believe may have relevant material or information or could be potential witnesses in any future court action.

In making these contacts, the commissioners have stated that they are conducting a "criminal investigation"... "arising from the belief that offences have been committed under Section 1078 of the Taxes Consolidation Act 1997, as amended".

Attempts last week to contact Mr Lowry for comment were not successful.

His admission was contained in a recording of a telephone conversation he had with Kevin Phelan, an Omagh-based land agent with whom Mr Lowry had been involved in a number of land sale transactions in the UK.

In the course of the conversation, which was recorded by Mr Phelan, Mr Lowry appeared very anxious that Mr Phelan should not indicate that the sum of £250,000 which he paid to him could be associated with the purchase of Doncaster Rovers' football ground.

He is recorded telling Mr Phelan: "I'm asking you Kevin, for fuck's sake, will you protect me just a small bit? For Jaysus' sake, don't land me in it. I'm destroyed as it fucking is. I can't bring out that 200 -- that 250 -- again. If that comes out, I'm fucking ruined. I'm bankrupt."

Later in the conversation, he said: "They can't find that 200. I never declared it."

Coming back to the £250,000, Mr Lowry said: "Now the 200 -- the 250 -- that I gave you, I paid that directly. I never put that through my books or my account or anything. Nobody's going to get it, so I've got, you know, I mean, I'm not even bringing that into it."

When Mr Phelan told him he understood the money was paid for shares in his (Mr Phelan's) family trust, Glebe Trust, which was connected to the sale of Doncaster Rovers, Mr Lowry said: "But if you say that, if you say that, if you say that, if you say that that happened, what that 250 is for -- is for the sale of fucking Vineacre or Vineacre shares, because if you say the opposite, if you say the other, then I'm fucking, it looks as if I had a beneficial interest in Doncaster, which I fucking hadn't."

As the confused conversation continued, Mr Lowry asked: "And what was I paying you for the Doncaster shares, you know what I mean. If that comes out [pause] I'm fucked."

Vineacre was a property company that was not associated with Doncaster Rovers.

As the conversation neared an end, Mr Lowry said: "The important thing is to keep away from it. Now if you keep away from fucking Glebe Trust there isn't a problem. We can sort out everything else."

On the same day that gardai visited Mr Lowry's home, they also searched a premises in Dublin in connection with the same investigation.

After the raid on his home, Mr Lowry, who was found by the Moriarty tribunal to be "profoundly corrupt", said the Revenue Commissioners had infringed his right to have his tax affairs dealt with in a confidential manner.

He said they had leaked details of the raid to the media and it was an "outrageous invasion" of his privacy.

"It was a fruitless exercise. First of all I was baffled as to why there was any necessity to do it. They left an inventory of I don't know how many documents were taken... maybe political statements I had made or handwritten notes I had, bank statements. What I can see clearly is that there was nothing of any significance taken from the house or indeed from my office.

"What concerns me is that there was no necessity for this. It was totally unnecessary. I, together with my accountancy advisers, were co-operating fully with the Revenue Commissioners since the McCracken Tribunal.

"Any questions or information they sought was provided to them. I can say for definite... the Revenue at all times over the last number of years have received total co-operation not only from myself but also from my accountancy advisers.

"To be quite honest with you, I was very upset about it and everybody about me was upset... I was appalled by it because it was an outrageous invasion of my privacy and my family home. I have no bill whatever from the Revenue Commissioners."

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