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Saturday 23 February 2019

Ansbacher probe: Gardai get 5,500-page tax evasion file

Official 'offered €20,000' to wrap up tax evasion probe

A High Court judge inspecting Ansbacher, the late Declan Costello, allegedly held an account with the bank at the centre of the scandal.
A High Court judge inspecting Ansbacher, the late Declan Costello, allegedly held an account with the bank at the centre of the scandal.

Fionnan Sheahan, Shane Phelan and Niall O’Connor

GARDAI have now received 5,500 pages of files relating to allegations of tax-evasion by holders of Ansbacher accounts.

Jobs Minister Richard Bruton forwarded the allegations of a whistleblower in his department to the gardai last night.

The documents have been sent to the gardai just days after the whistleblower contacted the Dail Public Accounts Committee to highlight his concerns.

The files sent to the gardai contain a 200 page witness statement by department official Gerard Ryan, who was involved in investigating the Ansbacher accounts, under section 21 of the Companies Act 1990, and supporting over 5,000 pages of supporting documentation.

Mr Bruton said the files have been forwarded to the relevant authorities “following finalisation of the various procedural matters under legislation and advice from officials”.

“As the Minister said in his comprehensive statement on Saturday, all matters contained in the statement are covered by the documents already submitted during the years 2004-2010 to the relevant authorities,” he said in a statement.

The news comes as the Irish Independent revealed this morning that the whistleblower who implicated several former ministers in the tax-evasion scandal has said he was offered a €20,000 bonus to finish his investigation quickly.

Civil servant Gerard Ryan has also claimed another government official encouraged him to move jobs at the height of his probe into the Ansbacher account scandal.

The claims are the latest to emerge from a dossier given by Mr Ryan to the Dail Public Accounts Committee (PAC) under new protected disclosure legislation.

In the dossier, he claims successive governments and several state agencies ignored evidence that high-profile former Fianna Fail and Fine Gael TDs held offshore accounts to avoid tax.

He alleges the Moriarty Tribunal failed to investigate the claims and that a judge who acted as a High Court inspector into Ansbacher, the late Declan Costello, held an account with Guinness & Mahon, the bank at the centre of the offshore tax evasion scandal.

Mr Ryan, a chartered accountant working at the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, began investigating Ansbacher in 1998.

He claims that, as his investigation was deepening in 2001 and 2002, a named official suggested he move to the IDA, the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement or the Revenue Commissioners.

If he had moved jobs, he would no longer have been probing Ansbacher.

Mr Ryan claims that after he declined the proposal in 2001, he was informed he would be in line for a €10,000 bonus on the completion of his report, which was required as soon as possible.

He alleges that the following year another official informed him the bonus offer had been doubled to €20,000.

However, he told the PAC he ignored the offers and continued with his investigation.

By June 2004 he had uncovered the names of a number of former ministers who allegedly held Ansbacher accounts.

This information was given to him by former staff at Guinness & Mahon, the Dublin bank from which accountant Des Traynor operated the Ansbacher scheme.

One of those staff members claimed to have seen a ledger in 1977 and 1978 containing the names of prominent politicians. The ledger was kept in a black briefcase.

The names supplied to Mr Ryan included eight former Fianna Fail ministers and a prominent TD with the party. Four of these people have since died. A former Fine Gael minister was also named.

A named bank official was said to have held the ledger from 1979 onwards, and even continued to look after the accounts when no longer employed byGuinness & Mahon.

In February 2004, Mr Ryan began making inquiries about accounts held by one of the former ministers. He claims his investigation was brought to a premature end, against his wishes, four months later.

Mr Ryan contacted Guinness & Mahon seeking disclosure of bank accounts held by the former minister, who is still alive.

The former minister was informed of this by the bank - and consented to the information being disclosed.

Guinness & Mahon provided details of a legitimate onshore account which was held by the politician between 1978 and 1986.

No information in relation to any offshore account was provided.

That May and June, Mr Ryan said he made efforts to secure funding so he could examine a computer which had been used by Guinness & Mahon.

At the time the computer was in the possession of Irish Permanent, which had bought Guinness & Mahon in 1994.

He felt the computer might have revealed further information about the account details that had been held in the black briefcase.

However, his request for funding was not sanctioned.

His investigation was "closed down" that July and he was instructed to write his final report.

Mr Ryan said he appealed against the decision, but was again told in August and September 2004 that his inquiry was over.

He said in the dossier that he subsequently raised the issue with successive Enterprise Ministers Micheal Martin, Batt O'Keeffe and Richard Bruton.

Mr Martin passed the information to the Revenue Commissioners, the Garda Siochana, the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement, the Moriarty Tribunal and the Mahon Tribunal.

However, Mr Ryan claims that the Revenue was the only body to speak to him about the matter.

A file was prepared by the gardai for the Director of Public Prosecutions but no one was prosecuted.

Mr Ryan also outlined how he prepared a statement for the gardai and had passed it to Mr Bruton for sign-off almost two years ago.

However, it is still awaiting the minister's approval.

Letters on the issue were sent to Mr Bruton in November 2012 and May and October of 2013.

Mr Ryan accused the minister of "interfering in the administration of justice", an allegation denied by Mr Bruton.

Mr Ryan also wrote to the office of Attorney General Maire Whelan.

However, it emerged last night that there has been no contact between the department and the Attorney General in the past four years on the issues raised in the dossier.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny said that after discussing the matter with Mr Bruton, it was his understanding that the dossier has been in the possession of the relevant state agencies for a considerable period of time.

Mr Kenny added: "It's very important, obviously, that these matters be teased out and investigated".

Mr Bruton is expected to brief the Cabinet this morning.

The PAC is due to receive legal advice on the dossier tomorrow. One option open to the committee is to hear evidence from Mr Ryan in private.

Irish Independent

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