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Friday 19 April 2019

Not one person prosecuted for Ansbacher scam

Greatest tax evasion scheme has returned €113m in penalties – but still no criminal convictions

THE TRUTH HURTS (OR NOT): Ansbacher report revealed 289 cases of illegality.
THE TRUTH HURTS (OR NOT): Ansbacher report revealed 289 cases of illegality.

It was the greatest tax evasion scheme in recent history, involving the "great and the good" of Irish society, but it has been confirmed that not one person has been prosecuted over the Ansbacher tax scandal.

New documents from Revenue Commissioners chairman Josephine Feehily reveal that, while €113m has been received in taxes and penalties from those involved in the Ansbacher scandal, not one prosecution has occurred.

The Caymen island scandal, which was investigated by the Moriarty tribunal – involved former Taoiseach Charles Haughey, his financial adviser Des Traynor and the former Guinness and Mahon bank – has not yielded a single prosecution because of a lack of "original documentation".

"An essential requirement for a successful criminal prosecution is original documents. There were very few original documents available and there was no legal mechanism to compel Caymen entities to produce such documents," Ms Feehily wrote.

According to the Revenue boss, Ansbacher was a "complex and secretive system" whereby Irish depositors could have their funds offshore, have no record of their deposits in Ireland and yet have access to their funds in the State.

In total, 289 cases of illegality were identified, but according to Revenue, these include "some who were very elderly and deceased".

Out of the total, 280 cases had been finalised as of December 31, 2012.

The documents state that as of the end of last year, a "total yield" of €112.69m has been obtained from 141 cases. This is made up of €50.1m in tax paid and €62.59m in penalties.

Ms Feehily said that while many cases passed the serious evasion test to be considered for prosecution, the time elapsed – typically in excess of 10 years since the alleged offence occurred – meant it would not be possible to mount a successful prosecution. "Section 1078 of the Taxes Consolidation Act provides proceedings must be initiated within 10 years from the date of the commission of the offence," Ms Feehily added.

The Ansbacher accounts ran from 1971 and the Irish operation was finally wound up in the mid-1990s.

Revenue commenced an investigation into the operation of the Ansbacher accounts and the "tax affairs of resident account holders" in late 1999.

Independent TD Shane Ross said he was "absolutely gobsmacked" that a coterie of the "great and the good" of Irish society have managed to escape prosecution, when small businessmen were hammered and named and shamed.

Mr Ross said: "It is incredible that despite getting in all that money, they haven't been able to bring a single person to court. It's old Ireland yet again exposed."

The Moriarty tribunal heard details regarding how Des Traynor ran the Ansbacher system from the registered offices of Cement Roadstone Holdings (CRH) during the late 1980s and early 1990s when he was chairman of the company.

Joan Williams, who was Des Traynor's secretary for more than 20 years, told the tribunal that she presumed that staff at CRH knew that Mr Traynor was running an offshore business from the premises.

The tribunal heard how two other men involved with Ansbacher – Padraig Collery and John Furze – worked out of Mr Traynor's CRH office from time to time, although neither man had any connection with CRH.

Irish Independent

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