Taoiseach took even more, says Gilmartin

TAOISEACH Bertie Ahern received more than £100,000 in connection with planning projects from Cork-based developer Owen O’Callaghan in the early 1990s, rival businessman Tom Gilmartin alleged at the Mahon Tribunal yesterday.

The Sligo-born former developer claimed the money given to Mr Ahern came out of £1 million “stolen” from his own Barkhill company and used by Mr O’Callaghan to fund corrupt payments.

Mr Gilmartin yesterday said that Mr Ahern received between £25,000 and £30,000 for his part in awarding tax designation to Mr O’Callaghan’s Golden Island shopping centre project at Athlone, Co Westmeath — this money was over and above the €80,000 previously mentioned by Mr Gilmartin.

Mr Gilmartin has previously alleged how Mr O’Callaghan told him he had made two payments totalling £80,000 to Mr Ahern between 1989 and 1992 in relation to other projects.

He claims Mr O’Callaghan told him he gave £50,000 to Mr Ahern at a football match for ensuring the Industrial Development Authority acquired Dublin Corporation land, while the £30,000 was allegedly paid by Mr O’Callaghan some time later, with the then finance minister was apparently instrumental in blocking tax designation for a rival shopping centre being built by the Green Property company at Blanchardstown.

Both Mr Ahern and Mr O’Callaghan, who deny the allegations, are due to testify to the tribunal on Mr Gilmartin’s claims at a later date.

During further cross-examination yesterday, Mr O’Callaghan’s lawyer Paul Sreenan SC put it to Mr Gilmartin he was continuing to “make up” his story as he went along.

“Liars very often take a hook of established facts and hang things on it,” observed counsel.

Denying he was telling lies, Mr Gilmartin insisted there was “a thread of truth” going through his testimony even where the detail was lacking. He recalled how he was described as a Walter Mitty character when he highlighted wrongdoing by Liam Lawlor, George Redmond and others, but events proved him right.

Questioned why he had not told the tribunal’s lawyers all he had known during a series of conversations, Mr Gilmartin pointed out his then solicitor Noel Smyth had advised him during their meeting in London to give the tribunal “signposts” for them to follow up.

Former lobbyist Frank Dunlop, whom Mr Gilmartin claims was the conduit used by Mr O’Callaghan to make corrupt payments, told the tribunal he received £1,808,556.81 through two companies, Shefran Ltd and Frank Dunlop & Associates (FDA), between 1991 and 2001.

In previous evidence Mr Dunlop has told the tribunal how he used a “war chest” from which he bribed councillors to support the rezoning of lands in the Dublin area.

Yesterday, Mr Dunlop told tribunal lawyer Patricia Dillon SC how he raised a series of bogus invoices allegedly for consultancy services to entities that did not exist.

He said he invoiced Barkhill Ltd (originally owned by Mr Gilmartin and taken over by Mr O’Callaghan) and Riga Ltd, controlled by Mr O’Callaghan, in connection with the Quarryvale project currently under the tribunal spotlight.

The former government press secretary, who had been hired by Mr O’Callaghan, said he had never had any dealings with Mr Gilmartin about fees or anything else connected with Quarryvale.

Mr Dunlop said he operated two different invoicing systems in 1991:money for FDA was duly recorded, while VAT-free invoices were raised through Shefran, which was used to conceal from Mr Gilmartin the fees he was receiving.

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