Monday 19 February 2018

TD faces 23 pension charges

Poor communication to blame for payment failure -- Wallace

Dearbhail McDonald and Donal O'Donovan

INDEPENDENT TD Mick Wallace did not pay his construction workers' pension contributions for 23 consecutive months, according to criminal charges brought against him.

Mr Wallace, who has vowed to pay his staff pension arrears, has been accused by the Pensions Board of not paying over his contributions between January 2008 and January 2010 inclusive, according to the charges obtained by the Irish Independent.

Twenty-three separate charges have been put back until December 5 at Dublin's District Court to allow Mr Wallace to pay €24,000 to the Pensions Board.

A sum of €22,000 has already been paid after the Pensions Board recently brought criminal proceedings against the popular TD and developer and his construction firm M&J Wallace.

Construction firms are legally obliged to take money from workers and pay it into the Construction Workers' Pension Scheme (CWPS) within 21 days.

If the Pensions Board does not secure compliance, it pursues employers in the courts.

Earlier in the day, Mr Wallace blamed "a discrepancy over what was owed for some construction pension stamps" for the district court prosecution.

"To say that the employee contribution wasn't paid is untrue," Mr Wallace, an outspoken critic of the controversial pension levy, told RTE radio.

"There was a delay in making the payment because there was a discrepancy over how much was owed.

"Okay, there was some poor communication between us and the Pensions Board, it's obviously more my fault than theirs and I accept responsibility for that."

"It was a lapse on my part," admitted the TD, who is entitled to an annual salary of €92,000 and has repeatedly raised the issue of pensions in the Dail.

The Irish Independent has learned that director's pay at M&J Wallace, which is now in receivership, doubled in 2008 when the alleged pension deduction breaches first came to light.

The most recent accounts for M&J Wallace Ltd, in 2008, list bank loans of almost €42.5m and annual interest payments of €2.6m. Salaries for the directors -- Mr Wallace and his son Sasha -- came to €290,000 up from €148,141 paid in 2007.

Directors' pay almost doubled even though the business was making a loss and sinking deeper into debt.

Now court documents show that the massive directors' payments were made even though 2008 was one of the years when M&J Wallace Limited failed to pay contributions deducted from workers' wages into the CWPS scheme in time.

Mr Wallace, who was undergoing surgery yesterday, said that he expected to receive a fine at the end of the District Court action.

The Wexford TD will have to quit his Dail seat if he is declared bankrupt because the 1992 Electoral Act forbids bankrupts from office.

Mr Wallace said he was co-operating with Dutch-owned ACC bank, which secured a €19m judgment against him in the Commercial Court on Monday last.

Irish Independent

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