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Q&A: Ansbacher tax evasion scam

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The Ansbacher accounts were organised by accountant Des Traynor of Guinness & Mahon bank

The Ansbacher tax evasion scam is back in the news. I thought we’d heard the last of it a long, long time ago?

So did most people, but a raft of fresh new allegations have been made about former government ministers from both Fianna Fail and Fine Gael. A serving civil servant has named politicians he believes held offshore Ansbacher accounts, and a deceased judge is also involved.

Refresh my memory. What was the Ansbacher scandal all about?

The Ansbacher accounts were organised by accountant Des Traynor of Guinness & Mahon bank to allow the great and the good of Irish society keep money offshore, have no record of their deposits in Ireland, and yet have access to their funds within the State.

Clients deposited tens of millions of pounds with Ansbacher and the money was treated for tax purposes as if it had been lodged offshore. However, Traynor was holding the money in Ireland and ran the business from a headquarters in central Dublin. The accounts were in operation from 1971 until the mid-1990s.

How did this come to light?

Their existence was exposed during the McCracken Tribunal, which was set up in 1997 to look into payments by businessman Ben Dunne to former Taoiseach Charles Haughey and former cabinet minister Michael Lowry.

A High Court-ordered report subsequently named 200 clients who had used the accounts, including Mr Haughey.

Other politicians involved were Hugh Coveney and Denis Foley.

So lots of people were prosecuted for having accounts?

Well, no, actually. The Revenue Commissioners began investigating the accounts in 1999 and up to last year had secured €113m in taxes and penalties from account holders.

However, not one prosecution occurred.

How did the latest fuss come about?

A serving civil servant has used new whistleblower legislation to disclose a series of new allegations to the Dail Public Accounts Committee (PAC).

He has claimed in a dossier that several former ministers had such accounts and also that there is evidence a deceased High Court judge had one too.

The civil servant claims several state agencies were made aware of this information, but did not investigate it properly.

Sounds like there could be some fallout from this?

Quite possibly, if the claims being made are true.

The civil servant claims to have passed the information to ministers in three successive Governments.

However, the allegations have been referred to gardai, the Mahon and Moriarty Tribunals, the Revenue Commissioners and Attorney General at one point or other.

A file was passed to the DPP who determined no further action was warranted.

What happens next?

The PAC has sought legal advice on what to do with the dossier and is likely to make a decision next week.

Online Editors