Gilmartin alleges Taoiseach held IR£15m in offshore bank account

AN TAOISEACH Bertie Ahern held IR£15 million in an offshore bank in Jersey because he was “too cute”, former developer Tom Gilmartin alleged at the Mahon Tribunal yesterday.

Giving details of his sensational claim, the Sligo- born businessman told the inquiry: “A gentleman, who said he was a banker, said Mr Ahern was able to hide his money because he was too cute.”

He had received this information in a phone call in September 2002, Mr Gilmartin told Paul Sreenan SC, for Cork- based property developer Owen O’Callaghan.

Both Mr Ahern and Mr O’Callaghan deny Mr Gilmartin’s allegations relating to corrupt payments to politicians in connection with planning projects.

Mr Gilmartin has previously alleged that Mr O’Callaghan, his former business partner in the Quarryvale shopping centre project in west Dublin, had told him of paying Mr Ahern IR£80,000 between 1989 and 1992 in return for political favours connected to development projects.

Earlier this week, Mr Gilmartin alleged the Taoiseach received a further sum — IR£25,000-IR£30,000 — when Mr O’Callaghan’s Golden Island shopping centre project in Athlone was given special tax designation.

Yesterday, Mr Gilmartin told the tribunal how he heard only $70,000 of an estimated $1 million fund collected in America in the early 1990s found its way into Fianna Fáil coffers in Ireland.

The fundraising took place in the wake of the 1993 Downing Street Declaration on the North issued by John Major and Albert Reynolds.

About $900,000 of the sum collected at fundraising events in Chicago, Boston and New York ended up in offshore accounts in the Cayman Islands, the Bahamas, the Dutch Antilles and Lichenstein, Mr Gilmartin alleged.

Pressed by Mr Sreenan to name who told him, Mr Gilmartin initially said he could not remember. Later he said he was told by relations in America — some of whom worked for news network CNN and had monitored the situation.

When tribunal chairman Judge Alan Mahon asked Mr Gilmartin to write down the names of people who gave him the information, the witness said his relations did not want to be involved with the tribunal.

The chairman assured him the inquiry needed to know the names to follow up their inquiries.

When Judge Mahon said the tribunal would not show the names to anyone else and there was no need for Mr Sreenan to see them that day, Mr Sreenan remarked: “If these people are genuine and they exist, Mr Gilmartin should be prepared to name the names.”

Earlier, Mr Gilmartin had claimed Mr Ahern and Mr Reynolds were among the politicians to whom Mr O’Callaghan said he had made offshore payments.

“On one occasion Mr Ahern brought a briefcase full of cash with him when he was attending a Manchester United football match,” said Mr Gilmartin.

He added that this was hearsay evidence

Mr Gilmartin said he was told Mr Ahern was met by a Bank of Ireland courier to whom he handed over the money.

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