By Andrew Bushe
DUBLIN – Revelations about new payments by Dunnes Stores to the Celtic Helicopters company owned by Ciaran Haughey, son of the former Taoiseach Charles Haughey, have emerged in a High Court case.
The McCracken payments-to-politicians tribunal established last year that former supermarket tycoon Ben Dunne paid £1.3 million to Charles Haughey at a time when he was taoiseach.
The inquiry also found that Celtic Helicopters received four payments of various bank loans and advances from the Ansbacher off-shore accounts, which were used to launder money to Haughey’s father.
Ciaran Haughey denied to the tribunal that he was aware the Ansbacher deposits were being used to support his company but McCracken concluded "he must have been aware" of the repayment of a £150,000 loan. The inquiry also questioned a £10,000 sum paid to Ciaran Haughey.
Tánaiste Mary Harney described the findings as "deeply disturbing" and sent an officer from her department to probe the financial affairs of Celtic Helicopters in September 1997.
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The officer found evidence of previously undisclosed payments from Dunnes which could have been part of the remit of the McCracken Tribunal but were never revealed to it.
Dunnes Stores are now challenging the appointment of the officer to two of its companies and, in the High Court last week, a letter to Harney’s official was read out which gave details of three checks payable to cash and totalling £180,000.
These were an example of why the Dunnes companies should be investigated, the court was told.
The letter, signed by Dunnes Stores group financial controller Patrick O’Donoghue, said that £100,000 of the money went to Celtic Helicopters and the balance of £80,000 to the late Des Traynor, who had been accountant and financial adviser to the former taoiseach.
The cash transfers occurred in November 1992.
The new revelations will also be investigated by the Moriarty tribunal, which was also set up in September 1997 to investigate further payments to Haughey between 1979 and 1996.
It is also probing if any political favors were granted for the payments.
Moriarty will also probe the sources of the money held in the Ansbacher accounts or any other Haughey bank accounts.
It had originally been intended that the Moriarty tribunal would report last summer but court challenges have delayed its inquiries.