By Andrew Bushe
DUBLIN — Politics has been rocked by the latest bombshell from the Moriarty Tribunal investigating payments to politicians, which disclosed that Fianna Fail TD Denis Foley held more than £100,000 in the Ansbacher accounts.
The accounts involve a secretive and complex tax-avoidance Cayman Islands-linked scheme run in breach of the Central Bank’s foreign currency regulations by Midas-man Des Traynor — financial adviser to disgraced former Taoiseach Charles Haughey.
After the revelation, Foley, 65, resigned as deputy chairman of the Oireachtas all-party Public Accounts Committee.
Taoiseach Bertie Ahern has come under strong attack about his handling of the controversy from the opposition, but Tanaiste Mary Harney said the matter would not affect the coalition as the TD was not a minister
The North Kerry TD was among Dail deputies who grilled top bankers, politicians and civil servants last year about DIRT tax evasion involving an estimated 300,000 bogus offshore accounts in 37 banks.
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The PAC probe and its subsequent report was credited with redeeming the falling status of politicians.
The revelation that one of the six TDs involved as a "watchdog" for the public had himself got questions to answer about his own tax liabilities will again rock confidence in public accountability and fuel voter cynicism.
Before the televised hearings began, all TDs involved in the DIRT investigation went through a grilling by three lawyers about possible conflicts of interest.
The involvement of the Tralee-based Foley, a property landlord, guesthouse owner and former rate collector who was first elected in 1981, in Ansbacher caused major surprise. Conservative and deeply religious, the non-drinking, non-smoking TD has kept a low profile until the recent DIRT hearings.
He told Moriarty he gave a first payment of £50,000 to Traynor in 1979 after he offered him a good rate for his funds. Traynor, who is now dead, had been an accountant at hotels in Tralee where the TD organized dances.
Foley said he was "shocked" when he realized the money was invested in the Ansbacher accounts after being contacted by the Tribunal last November.
He claims he thought his cash was in a Guinness and Mahon bank investment vehicle called Click Investments.
Foley will be questioned at the Tribunal. The source of the money he gave Traynor and details of his account dealings are still unclear.
Foley said he held money from the accounts with a view to paying off his outstanding tax liabilities.