Friday 18 October 2019

When a wife turns whistle-blower

Millionaire stockbroker Kyran McLaughlin's fall from grace is likely to have Ireland's businessmen sleeping uneasily in their beds, says Liam Collins

Millionaire stockbroker Kyran McLaughlin's fall from grace is likely to have Ireland's businessmen sleeping uneasily in their beds, says Liam Collins

SHE had it all, you would imagine. Susan McLaughlin was married to a millionaire stockbroker, she had three children with a trust fund worth over £250,000, she lived in a mansion among the Foxrock millionaires (now the residence of the Dutch ambassador) and her social life revolved around the ladies who lunch, the Carrickmines Croquet and Lawn Tennis Club and Milltown Golf Club.

Susan and her husband Kyran McLaughlin lived the charmed life of Dublin's ultra-rich. Their detached home, Goleen, off Brighton Road was just around the corner from the Torquay Road residence of his partner in Davy Stockbrokers, David Shubotham; a stone's throw away in Westminster Road lived the other joint managing director of the firm, Tony Garry.

McLaughlin, an auctioneer's son from Blackrock, Co Dublin, had come through Aer Lingus, where he had worked closely with Michael Dargan, to the charmed old world of Davys, helping to turn the stockbroking firm into one of the biggest and most profitable financial services companies in Dublin.

Shubotham became a familiar face in the owners' and trainers' enclosure at the racecourses while the more retiring McLaughlin indulged his passion for rugby, following his school Blackrock, where he had once distinguished himself both as a schoolboy and in the second row of the senior cup team.

The real payback time came in 1988 when Bank of Ireland paid £30m for 90 per cent of Davy's, making the partners multi-millionaires and leaving the four senior figures in the firm, Brian Davy, David Shubotham, Tony Garry and Kyran McLaughlin, with the remaining 10 per cent.

In the meantime Kyran McLaughlin had married an attractive Galway girl, Susan Warner, a PE teacher at Muckross school for girls in Donnybrook. They were in their early 20s when they met on the rugby-hockey hop circuit.

But money and prestige and the social whirl of the millionaire set was not enough to hold it all together. Friends say that while Susan was interested in the social scene, Kyran was quieter, very religious, devoted to his family and enjoying a couple of pints with old friends. The couple stayed together until their children had grown up, and after 25 years of marriage they finally separated officially in 1995.

The settlement remains secret, but there is no reason to think that Kyran McLaughlin was anything other than generous to his former wife.

One friend of the couple says she is among the wealthiest women in the city. But even then there were murmurs that she ``had something on him''.

He is said to be worth at least £20m as a result of the sale of the business, his own personal investments and his continuing income and profits from the brokerage which has been involved in most of the big corporate deals in the city, including government business like the privatisation of Greencore.

``If I had his money I'd be dating Claudia Schiffer,'' said a rugby buddy, ``but Kyran isn't like that, he's very straight.''

Following his divorce McLaughlin moved into a more modest semi-detached home off Herbert Park in Dublin, and eventually met a new partner, Rena. Quite recently they had a baby daughter.

This happy event in his private life happened to coincide with his wife's decision to contact the Moriarty tribunal, which is investigating payments to politicians and has sparked a widespread inquiry into the holders of the now infamous Ansbacher accounts.

Susan McLaughlin may have split up irrevocably with her husband, but she still had access to some of his personal papers from those days. Among them was a detailed plan on how to set up an almost impossible-to-trace trust fund in far-off Liechtenstein and the famous document ``A Note to John Furze'', Mr Furze being the man who had established and run the Ansbacher deposits in the Cayman Islands with the Dublin accountant Des Traynor. John Furze and Des Traynor are now conveniently dead, but among the things they have left behind them is that immortal phrase for tax planners of the future, ``Towards Minimising the Footprints'', which translates into how to keep something secret from virtually everybody.

But since last October Kyran McLaughlin's footprints have been all over the place like a bad rash. The Moriarty tribunal got a copy of ``A Note to John Furze'', while RTÉ and selected newspapers have copies of the unfinished Liechtenstein Plan, which dates back to 1984.

While Kyran McLaughlin was building a new future, his past was coming back to haunt him.

When Ben Dunne stuffed an enormous quantity of cocaine up his nose on February 20, 1992, nobody could have foreseen the consequences, but now, almost eight years later, the ripples from that act have turned into waves.

One of those breakers engulfed the career of Kyran McLaughlin and turned it upside down last week.

BEN Dunne was the first casualty of his own recklessness, when he was dumped from the family firm by his sister Margaret Heffernan. Charlie Haughey and Michael Lowry came a quick second.

But now the Moriarty tribunal seems to be going in an unexpected direction. It is not the politicians whose reputations are on the line, but the pillars of the Irish business community.

Last week's resignation of Kyran McLaughlin as joint managing director of Davy Stockbrokers followed the resignation of one of the country's best-known businessmen, Jim Culliton, as chairman of the Hibernian Group last September.

Others, like David Doyle, formerly of Doyle Hotels, Tony Barry of the industrial conglomerate CRH, and Michael Dargan, have all publicly declared that they held Ansbacher accounts for legitimate business reasons.

Kyran McLaughlin is not on the famous and much speculated-about Ansbacher list, but he ended up in the clutches of the Moriarty tribunal all the same.

It was some weeks before that, when he started getting calls and faxed questions at his Dawson Street office, relating to his private finances, that the alarm bells began to ring.

In the last two weeks he unsuccessfully tried to prevent Susan McLaughlin releasing his private papers.

Before the Moriarty tribunal Mr McLaughlin denied he was the author of ``A Note to John Furze'', and to the media he denied that he had set up a Liechtenstein trust fund for his own benefit.

It was only last Tuesday, when the media were told ``you are asking the wrong question'', that he was forced to admit that in 1986 he had established the offshore trust for the benefit of his three children.

On Wednesday morning, fatally compromised, he told his partners he would be resigning from his position as joint managing director of Davys, but would remain on as a stockbroker.

He also said that the trust fund was established with ``after-tax income'' but he was in immediate contact with the Revenue Commissioners about the tax implications that arise from the public disclosure of his private finances.

While all this excitement was going on in the financial community, almost unnoticed last week the inspectors appointed by the High Court and working under the former President of the Court, Declan Costello, investigating Ansbacher (Cayman) Ltd, asked the public for information which will be ``treated in the strictest confidence''.

In other words, they are looking for anybody else out there who may have other people's financial secrets hidden away in the attic to give them a call.

It is an appeal which may leave a lot of Irish businessmen sleeping uneasily in their beds these long winter nights.

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