McDowell backs Ansbacher judge over tax scandal
FORMER Tanaiste Michael McDowell has described as “nonsense” suggestions that Ansbacher inquiry judge Declan Costello was compromised by holding an account with the bank involved in the tax evasion scandal.
Mr Costello’s family issued a statement defending the now deceased judge after it was alleged he was conflicted in overseeing the investigation into offshore bank accounts because he had an account with Guinness & Mahon.
The claim was made by Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation whistleblower Gerry Ryan in a dossier given to the Oireachtas’s Public Accounts Committee. Mr McDowell was the Attorney General when the first investigation into Ansbacher accounts was launched in 1999.
Justice Costello was appointed to lead the investigation which led to Revenue recouping millions of euro from tax evaders.
In an interview with the Sunday Independent, Mr McDowell said: “I know a suggestion was made that Declan Costello was somehow compromised – that’s nonsense.
“People seem to be confusing the idea you can have an account in Guinness & Mahon bank, which had a huge building on College Green, and somehow that made you into an offshore tax avoider. There is no connection between the two concepts,” he added.
Guinness & Mahon was a registered bank, which also provided secret offshore account’s for Ireland’s elite.
It emerged during an investigation into the bank that former Taoiseach Charles Haughey and other high-profile people evaded paying tax through Ansbacher accounts.
When the allegations were first made against Mr Costello, his family issued a statement saying a Guinness & Mahon account was opened for the judge so he could receive inheritance from his father in the 1970s.
They said Mr Costello had forgotten he held the account when he was appointed to oversee the Ansbacher investigation in 1999.
Two weeks ago, the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) chairman John McGuinness, who was investigating Mr Ryan’s allegation, said the Revenue Commissioner assured the committee the claims were fully investigated and no further inquiry would be necessary.
The outcome of PAC’s hearings will heap pressure on Sinn Fein deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald, who used Dail privilege to publicly name a number of former politicians who were named in Mr Ryan’s dossier.
Ms McDonald claimed former ministers Desmond O’Malley, Ray MacSharry, Gerard Collins, Maire Geoghegan-Quinn, Richie Ryan, and an ‘S Barrett’, who is believed to be Sylvester Barrett, were named in the confidential report on offshore back accounts.
All those named by the Sinn Fein TD denied they held Ansbacher accounts or tried to evade taxes owed to Revenue.
Mr Collins recently wrote to the PAC saying he believed it exceeded its jurisdiction by initiating an investigation into the Ansbacher claims.
Former Progressive Democrats leader Mr McDowell said the onus will now be on Ms McDonald to back up the claims she made in the Dail.
“There is a mechanism under the Dail’s standing orders if you make an attack on somebody that you have to deal with it afterwards,” he told the Sunday Independent.
“I believe that’s started with Mary Lou and she will have to stand up her argument.
“I note that everyone named that is still alive stated that it is simply not true. So the mere fact it was said in the Dail under privilege doesn’t make it true. And the mere fact that one person has prepared a memo for a TD and suggests theses things are true doesn’t make them true.”
The Dail’s Procedures and Privileges Committee (CPP) received a number of complaints after Ms McDonald named the politicians listed in the dossier.
She will now be called before the CPP to substantiate the allegations she made and justify her use of Dail privilege to name those involved.
If she is unable to back up her claims she will be forced to withdraw her remarks from the Dail record. Sinn Fein and Ms McDonald did not respond to requests for comment.