By Andrew Bushe
DUBLIN — In a dramatic development in corruption probes now taking place in Ireland, former assistant Dublin city and county manager George Redmond, a key witness in the Flood Tribunal’s investigation of alleged planning irregularities, was arrested last weekend at Dublin Airport on arrival from the Isle of Man carrying about IR_300,000.
Redmond, 74, was detained by the criminal assets bureau, the elite squad of g_rdaf, revenue officers and social welfare inspectors set up to smash the power of drug barons following the 1996 assassination of journalist Veronica Guerin.
When he was arrested, Redmond was carrying the money in punts, sterling and bank checks in a briefcase and is believed to have drawn it from accounts in banks and financial institutions, having flown out to the Irish Sea tax haven earlier in the day.
His Castleknock home was searched and he was questioned for 19 hours under the 1997 Taxes Consolidation Act on suspicion of tax irregularities before being released.
G_rdaf retained the money pending further investigation and a file is to be prepared for the Director of Public Prosecutions.
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Tax offense charges could carry a five year jail sentence.
It is not clear why Redmond went to collect the money, whether it was to pay legal fees or because he feared the CAB was about to freeze his accounts. He has not been charged with any crime.
There has been intense speculation recently that Redmond had been holding discussions with the Flood Tribunal lawyers about his possible co-operation.
Only the director of public prosecutions can grant immunity to witnesses but Judge Feargus Flood has discretion in other areas.
If a witness fails to co-operate he can refer the matter to the DPP. Judge Brian McCracken referred the case of former Taoiseach Charles Haughey after his tribunal two years ago. Haughey has been charged with hindering and obstructing and faces a possible _10,000 fine and two years in prison.
Flood will also decide who will have their legal representation costs met by the state. A full legal team costs in the region of _2,000 a day. So far, the tribunal has sat for five weeks and still has not finished with its first witness.
The Tribunal was set up in November 1977 to probe a _30,000 payment to former Foreign Affairs Minister Ray Burke. Its terms of reference were later widened to include another _30,000 payment to Burke.
It is also investigating possible planning corruption surrounding 726 acres of land in north county Dublin and is allowed probe allegations dating back to 1973.
Since Jan. 12, the tribunal’s main whistleblower, James Gogarty, has been in the witness box and the elderly former executive of a development company has made serious corruption allegations against Redmond in his evidence. Gogarty has an immunity deal.
Redmond had unsuccessfully fought a case to the Supreme Court in an effort to prevent the Tribunal publicly dealing with the allegations against him.
As a result of the case and tribunal costs, Redmond is facing a legal bill which is already believed to exceed _100,000.
Redmond is legally represented at the tribunal, but his counsel has been absent on occasions when Gogarty made allegations about him and Redmond has personally intervened in an effort to rebut them.
There have been suggestions that if the tribunal’s legal counsel could persuade Redmond to become a “friendly” witness, this could have a domino effect with other witnesses also agreeing to co-operate.
Gogarty has claimed that Redmond was to be paid _15,000 by a development company because he would not get a consultancy he was promised on retirement. He also claimed that Redmond provided other services for the developer.
Redmond has strenuously denied the allegations.
In an interview with the newspaper Ireland on Sunday earlier this month, suggestions that Redmond had offshore accounts in the Isle of Man were directly put to him. “That’s another rumor. I don’t have a bank account in the Isle of Man,” he said.
He also spoke of how he had become a social pariah. “Old friends are embarrassed when they see me now and they don’t really want to talk. They pass me by.”
Redmond joined Dublin Corporation in 1941 as a clerk and worked his way up through a series of promotions. He retired in 1989 shortly before the Dublin local authorities received a shake-up and the old county council was split into three.