Category: Archive

Lawlor risks jail term, fine

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

By Andrew Bushe

DUBLIN — Embattled former Fianna Fail TD Liam Lawlor is involved in a legal battle this week to keep himself out of jail for Christmas after extraordinary revelations about million of pounds he has refused to account for.

The Flood Tribunal probing payments to politicians and planning corruption has trawled through his affairs and discovered about 30 bank accounts and 10 companies and £4,659,000 it estimates had passed through them since 1983.

So far, the source of more than £2.5 million of the cash is still unaccounted for.

The full circumstances surrounding some of the other £2 million has still to be probed by the Tribunal lawyers.

The £2 million includes Lawlor’s salary, a series of political contributions, payments from political lobbyist Frank Dunlop and cash from Liechtenstein.

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The TD has claimed his business interests stretched from Albania to Argentina and from the Czech Republic to Nigeria. He said his personal business dealings had no bearing on planning or land zoning decisions in Dublin.

Most public comment has surrounding his claim he cashed a £38,000 check from Dunlop in a pub. He said it had been paid to him for business introductions and consultancy work.

Lawlor has consistently maintained he has done nothing wrong, has said he has no intention of resigning his Dail seat, and will answer all questions relating to planning, but that he believes the Tribunal trawl of his affairs goes beyond its remit.

There have been heated exchanges in the Dail about Lawlor’s continued vice-chairmanship of the all-party Dail committee that has responsibility for ethics legislation. He was a Fianna Fail nominee on the committee.

After a series of rearguard court actions, the Dublin West TD finally appeared at the Tribunal last week to face four days of grueling cross-questioning before, in an unprecedented decision, he was stood down as a witness for failing to answer questions.

On the first day he took the stand, Lawlor was warned by the Tribunal chairman, Justice Feargal Flood, who told him he could face fines of up to £10,000 and/or a two-year jail sentence if he is found to be in contempt.

"I have a degree of unease about the quality of your evidence and the frankness of your evidence," Flood said.

In another intervention, Flood said Lawlor should have no difficulty explaining the source of money because, as a law-abiding member of the Oireachtas, he would have made tax returns about it and it should be simply a matter of contacting the Revenue Commissioners to find out where it came from.

In legal actions before his appearance last week, the TD had sought to overturn the Tribunal’s demands for details of his bank accounts within or outside the state and documentation about his business and financial dealings.

The High Court supported the Tribunal and its verdict was endorsed when Lawlor appealed to the Supreme Court.

When finally in the witness box, Lawlor still refused to cooperate. In response to many questions, he was either evasive or claimed to remember only the vaguest details. Conflicts and contradictions in his evidence mounted during the week.

Finally, Flood said the TD was not complying with the October High Court order to disclose documents and he had no choice but to refer the matter back to the court. He decision followed a refusal by Lawlor to answer questions about his credit cards.

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