Category: Archive

Haughey: £8.5M in 17 years?

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

By Andrew Bushe

DUBLIN — After over £8.5 million in unaccounted for payments from 1979-96 have been connected with disgraced former Taoiseach Charlie Haughey, the great Houdini of politics is finally going to be called before the Moriarty Tribunal to be quizzed about the cash and his record in power.

With so much money discovered by the 2 1/2-year-old Tribunal sloshing in and out of accounts in different currencies and at different times during the last 17 years, the handouts Haughey received may turn out to be even higher.

The payments being probed do not include his salary or expenses down the years as TD, Fianna Fail party leader and taoiseach.

The sheer scale of his appetite for spending and his ability to get so much money from the so-called golden circle of the very wealthy has delivered yet another blow in the crisis of confidence in public life.

Taoiseach Bertie Ahern has described the revelations as "deeply shocking" and said Haughey had betrayed the ethos of Fianna Fail.

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So far, 16 different sources of payments to Haughey have been identified ranging from the Far East, the Middle East, Switzerland, the Cayman Islands and a series of accounts in financial institutions in Britain and Ireland.

Tribunal counsel Jerry Healy said the payments totaled £2,493,885 in sterling and £6,148,593 in punts.

Haughey is expected to take the witness stand within the next month when the tribunal lawyers will ask him to account on oath for the payments and to explain the reasons for them.

Part of the Moriarty terms of reference is to investigate whether political decisions made by Haughey when in office benefited a person or company that paid him money.

The tribunal is also probing the finances of two companies run by Haughey’s sons, Feltrim Mining and Celtic Helicopters.

Millions of pounds went into the companies from prominent business figures and the Moriarty investigators will be examining whether both operations were used as vehicles to give money to the former taoiseach and his family.

Haughey, who’s 74, agreed last month to pay more than £1m in back taxes on £1.3 million he received from business tycoon and former department store boss Ben Dunne between 1987-91.

The new Moriarty discoveries will mean another substantial tax bill. It could threaten his continuing ownership of his main assets, the Haughey holiday island off Kerry and his Gandon mansion in Malahide.

In 1997, the McCracken Tribunal uncovered the initial Dunne handouts. It concluded there did not appear to be any political impropriety connected with the payments to Haughey, who was taoiseach three times from 1979-92.

However, it has now emerged that Dunne gave him a total of about £2 million. The former department store boss planned to give Haughey about £900,000, he said in testimony last week, but he had never intended to hand over £2 million.

In particular, both Dunne and his former financial adviser, Noel Fox, were flummoxed by a 1990 payment of £200,000 routed through a Hong Kong-based company connected with the department store chain. Dunne accepted he must have authorized it.

The Moriarty investigators will want to find out just who paid him all the money and why. Did they get anything in return? What state appointments, positions and contracts were given to whom during his years in power? Was that patronage tainted?

Haughey is also facing a Circuit Court trial over accusations he obstructed and hindered the McCracken investigation by initially denying he got any cash.

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