Thursday 17 October 2019

'Money was to buy apartment in Manchester'

Fergus Black and Lorna Reid

FORMER Taoiseach Bertie Ahern converted thousands of pounds worth of Irish currency into sterling from his salary cheques to buy an apartment in Manchester.

But when the idea was scrapped, he lodged the money, together with a "few good" sterling wins on the horses into his and his daughters' Irish Permanent accounts in Dublin.

Mr Ahern did not remember the sterling lodgments when he previously gave evidence to the Mahon Tribunal, but he said it was the "height of absurdity" to suggest he had attempted to conceal the lodgments.

Such a suggestion was "unfair, untrue and groundless", he insisted. The first explanation about why Irish punts were converted to sterling and then lodged to his and his daughters' accounts emerged in a detailed statement Mr Ahern gave to the tribunal on April 18. In that statement, which was read into the tribunal record yesterday, Mr Ahern explained that between IR£12,000 and IR£13,000 of his accumulated salary and expenses was changed into sterling together with sums of money won on "sporting bets".

The Irish punts were exchanged for sterling with his friend, Manchester-based Irish businessman Tim Kilroe. In the early 1990s he had considered buying an apartment at Salford Quay, Manchester and that investment would have required an initial "stake".

Transaction

For that purpose, between 1990 and 1993 he began to save cash from his salary cheques and on about six occasions he exchanged Irish punts for sterling with Mr Kilroe and each transaction was for between £2,000 and £3,000.

He kept the sterling in his safe and after deciding against buying the apartment he lodged the money into his own account and also accounts of his daughters, Georgina and Cecilia. His statement said he originally believed he used this money as a "float" for his trips to the UK and for the purpose of bets on horse racing. However, he could now only conclude he lodged the sterling to his and his daughters' accounts.

"As is well known I am interested in horse racing and I have over the years placed bets on horse races," his statement continued. "Over a period of time I won various sums of money, some of this paid in sterling. Some of this would have been retained in sterling and consequently may well have formed part of the funds lodged."

He also recalled that that he had had "a few good wins" on the horses over the years, including two successful bets in 1996. He was certain he lodged the sterling winnings -- which the tribunal heard amounted to stg£8,000 -- to his daughters' accounts. Until recently he had completely overlooked the connection between these funds and the lodgments.

Tribunal senior counsel Des O'Neill wondered whether Mr Ahern had forgotten he had saved money in sterling or had he considered the information not material to the tribunal?

Mr Ahern said he had a recollection he had sterling but what he did not think, was that he had ever lodged it.

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