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Revenue boss: No political interference in our Ansbacher probe


Outgoing head of revenue Josephine Feehily

Outgoing head of revenue Josephine Feehily

Outgoing head of revenue Josephine Feehily

THE chairperson of the Revenue Commissioners has insisted there had not been any political interference in its work.

Josephine Feehily was responding to claims made by a whistleblower who supplied a dossier of claims about alleged Ansbacher account holders.

Under questioning from Independent TD Shane Ross at the Dail Public Accounts Committee (PAC), Ms Feehily said: “I have had no experience of political interference in the work of the Revenue Commissioners.”

Mr Ross said the whistleblower had suggested there was a pattern of political obstruction.

But Ms Feehily said its officials are “quite surprised” by claims made by the whistleblower that it did not adequately investigate tax dodging claims against high profile politicians.

She insisted that all of the claims made in the Anbacher dossier were fully investigated.

She told the committee this morning: “All of this information was fully examined and followed up wherever it took us.”

She also said that “many helpful meetings were held” with Department of Jobs official Gerard Ryan, the official whose claims have sparked the latest controversy over the tax dodging scheme.

Ms Feehily said she had not seen the dossier herself and there were limits to what she could say about Ansbacher inquiries.

An official who briefed her on its contents told her “there was nothing in the final dossier that we didn’t already know”, she said.

Mr Ryan, a serving civil servant at the Department of Jobs, had acted as an authorised officer inquiring into Ansbacher between 1998 and 2004, when his findings were passed over to several agencies, including the Revenue, for further investigation.

Ms Feehily said that by that stage “the authorised officer’s scope was much narrower than ours.”

She said Revenue officials were “quite surprised” that Mr Ryan had accused them of failing to properly investigate information he uncovered.

Asked by Mr Ross for her opinion of the whistleblower’s work, Ms Feehily responded: “I am not making any judgments on him.”

Ms Feehily said the Revenue had considered bringing prosecutions against Ansbacher account holders as a result of its inquiries.

However, it was hamstrung for a number of reasons.

She said successful prosecutions would have required the availability of relevant original documentation.

This was not available in most cases, she said. There was also no legal mechanism to compel Cayman banks or officials to provide documents or give evidence.

She also said the law meant prosecutions had to be brought within ten years of an alleged offence and pointed out that Ansbacher accounts had operated as far back as 1971.

The Revenue only began investigating Ansbacher in the late 1990s, after there had already been two tax amnesties.

“I have reviewed these files and a number of cases in detail and I can assure you our advice was we would fail the ten year test,” she said.

Asked by Mr Ross why prosecutions were not brought despite the fact tax settlements had been made, Ms Feehily said: “It may look like something, but proving it to the criminal standard in court is an entirely different challenge.”

Mr Ross asked if Revenue had come to any conclusions about the source of money funnelled into Ansbacher accounts and if it had been “hot money”.

Ms Feehily said that the most common occupation of those who had settlements published on the tax defaulters list was “company director”.

“They were wealthy people sheltering wealth,” she said.

Earlier Sinn Fein deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald was criticised by fellow members of the committee for naming six politicians listed in the Ansbacher dossier.

Ms McDonald said last night she named the politicians in a bid to force an independent inquiry into how claims made by Department of Jobs whistleblower Gerard Ryan were investigated.

But Fine Gael TD John Deasy said Ms McDonald had “conveniently ignored” a decision taken by the PAC on Tuesday night to wait until after today’s questioning of Revenue Commissioners officials before deciding on what further action to take about the dossier.

At a meeting of the committee this morning Mr Deasy accused Ms McDonald of “talking out both sides of her mouth” on the issue.

He said she was “damaging the committee”.

“You are using it for your own political ends and you have to stop it,” he said.

Ms McDonald described his claim as “nonsense”.

She said she was “perfectly entitled” to do what she had done as a member of the Oireachtas.

“It is my view that the full breadth of what is alleged in the dossier cannot be inquired into by the committee,” she said.

Ms McDonald said the allegations in the dossier were “considerable, wide-ranging and profound”.

But the legal advice received by the committee had made it absolutely clear that it was beyond its remit to capture all the issues raised in the dossier, she said.

Labour TD Joe Costello also criticised Ms McDonald for acting as she did.

He said it was incorrect of Ms McDonald to say in the Dail that the PAC could not investigate the dossier properly.

“It was totally untrue to say we had come to the end of the road and couldn’t go further,” he said.