Harney: I didn’t halt off-shore tax probe
Former tánaiste Mary Harney last night denied she halted a probe into offshore tax accounts because prominent PD Des O’Malley’s name was on a list of people allegedly involved and that every opportunity had been afforded the investigation to finish its work.
“I am satisfied that correct procedures were followed both by me and the department. The goal was always to ensure that these matters were investigated thoroughly and dealt with correctly by the competent authorities,” Ms Harney said in a statement last night.
A full independent inquiry into allegations that former senior politicians held Ansbacher accounts has been demanded by Sinn Féin.
The party’s deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald has written to the Taoiseach urging the move after she provoked a political fire- storm by naming a number of ex-ministers in the Dáil.
Ms McDonald claimed Ms Harney halted a probe because she was influenced by names thrown up by the tax evasion probe.
Ms McDonald used Dáil privilege to name a number of former politicians that a top level whistleblower in the Enterprise Department alleges were involved with Ansbacher accounts.
Ceann comhairle Sean Barrett immediately rebuked the deputy for her action, and Taoiseach Enda Kenny said the matter was being dealt with by the fraud squad and he could not intervene.
Ms McDonald said she was relaying the allegations of a credible whistleblower as she named Des O’Malley, Ray MacSharry, Gerard Collins, Maire Geoghegan- Quinn, Richie Ryan, and an individual she referred to as “S Barrett”, as allegedly having held the accounts.
The ceann comhairle was quick to stress he was not the “S Barrett” mentioned by the Sinn Féin TD with whom he has had a number of explosive clashes in recent weeks. The ceann comhairle warned Ms McDonald she should not name people who could not defend themselves in the chamber.
However, the Sinn Féin deputy leader insisted the move was justifiable and in the public interest.
“The whistleblower says his investigation into Ansbacher accounts, offshore accounts, and tax evasion, was terminated by the then minister, Mary Harney in 2004, once Desmond O’Malley was discovered to be one of the holders of these accounts. I am echoing the allegations that are very serious, that have been brought forward by the whistleblower.
“The whistleblower has told us very clearly that he has gone to every length to have these matters explored and investigated. And the whistleblower now fears that will never happen,” Ms McDonald said.
The TD added that other serious allegations persisted, such as there having been an attempt to try and cover-up the matter.
Ms McDonald said she had taken the action as the Public Accounts Committee was not permitted to investigate, and asked if the whistleblower would be allowed to complete his investigation. Replying to the claims, Mr Kenny, who pointed out his Government had brought-in laws to protect whistleblowers, said it was not his place to contact the Garda commissioner about documentation, or investigations.
He said Enterprise Minister Richard Bruton had sent on documentation to the garda fraud investigation unit, following a delay.
Ms Geoghegan-Quinn, Mr Collins, Mr O’Malley, and Mr MacSharry, issued statements saying they never had an Ansbacher account. Mr Ryan also denied the claims.
Mary Harney: “Throughout the seven years of the investigation I supported the authorised officer in his role.”
Des O’Malley: “I have never availed of a tax amnesty.”
Gerard Collins: I have never had or held an Ansbacher account.
Ray MacSharry: Outraged at “such wild allegations”.
Máire Geoghegan-Quinn: Never had an Ansbacher account.
Richie Ryan: Outraged at abuse of Dáil privilege.
Sylvester Barrett: Former minister died in 2002.
Outraged politicians deny Ansbacher links
Politicians react about the claims in the Dáil:
Mary Harney — former tánaiste and leader of the Progressive Democrats:
“At no point was I ever influenced by any of the many names brought to my attention by the authorised officer in the course of his seven year investigation. On the contrary, and the minutes of both the department and the authorised officer will confirm that I made it clear, regardless of who might have been involved, it had to be investigated correctly and thoroughly…
“Throughout the seven years of the investigation I supported the authorised officer in his role. When he wrote to me in 2000 resigning as authorised officer and conveying how disappointed he was at not being appointed by the Public Appointments Service as Director Designate of the ODCE I approved an offer of a specific bonus. This would have been payable on completion of his investigation…
“Both I as minister, and department officials defended the time being taken by the aurhorised officer to complete his work despite growing concerns and in the Dáil and in the department. It was raised at the Public Accounts Committee and in parliamentary questions in 2002… I am satisfied that correct procedures were followed both by me and the department.”
Máire Geoghegan-Quinn — Former EU Commissioner for Research, former Justice Minister and Fianna Fáil TD for Galway West:
“I have never had an Ansbacher Account. Neither have I ever had an account with Guinness and Mahon Bank.”
Des O’Malley — Founder of the PDs and former Fianna Fáil minister and Limerick TD:
““This list, and allegations of tax evasion have been extensively investigated already by the Revenue Commissioners, the gardaí and the Moriarty Tribunal several years ago. Despite this it is being raised again.
“The reason for my being on that list is quite simply that I had a particular form of account with Guinness Mahon Bank.
“On appointment as Minister for Industry and Commerce in 1977 I was aware that I had shares in some of the companies that I would be dealing with. In order to avoid a conflict of interest and allegations of acting in my capacity as minister for my personal benefit, I followed a practice that is standard in other countries and put my assets into a blind trust. I was advised at the time that Guinness Mahon Bank had experience of operating such trusts…
“I received dividends annually through Guinness Mahon Bank and I paid tax on these in Ireland. My tax affairs remain in full compliance with the Revenue Commissioners. I have never availed of a tax amnesty and indeed opposed it when the Fianna Fáil /Labour government introduced one in 1993. ”
Ray Mac Sharry — Former Tánaiste, minister for finance and European Commissioner and Fianna Fáil TD for Sligo Leitrim:
“It is outrageous that anybody can make such wild allegations when there is no foundation whatsoever as far as I am concerned.
“I never had an Ansbacher Account. I never had a Guinness & Mahon account.
“I never benefited from any Ansbacher or Guinness & Mahon account. I have been in touch with my lawyer to see what action I can take.”
Richie Ryan — Former Fine Gael Finance Minister, MEP and Dublin South West TD:
“I never had an Ansbacher account, or an account by Guinness Mahon,” he said.
“I consider it outrageous that an allegation of this kind has been made by abusing Dáil privilege.”
Gerard Collins — Former Fianna Fáil minister for justice and foreign affairs, MEP and TD for Limerick West
“I have never had or held an Ansbacher account or Guinness and Mahon bank account and I would welcome any investigation..”