I was given $10k by businessman in Manchester, says Richardson

POCKETING a bulky envelope given by an English businessman before a Manchester United match in May 1994, former Fianna Fáil chief fundraiser Des Richardson discovered next day it contained $10,000 (€6,750) cash, the Mahon Tribunal heard yesterday.

Mr Richardson said he had been invited to the football game in Manchester by Norman Turner and, after “a liquid lunch”, was given the envelope which he didn’t open until the next day in his Dublin office.

Asked by tribunal lawyer Des O’Neill SC why he didn’t check the envelope while with Mr Turner, Mr Richardson replied: “It would not be good manners to open the donation in his presence. I was a man in my 40s. I wasn’t getting a present from Santa Claus. I could wait.”

Mr Richardson — who said he had met Mr Turner about half a dozen times — picked up the phone to thank the donor but didn’t ask the Englishman why he was paying dollars.

The donor had an interest in developing a large tract of land in Dublin and had expressed his appreciation of the good job FF was doing and wanted to contribute to party funds, the tribunal heard.

According to Mr Richardson, Mr Turner wanted his donation to remain confidential. He didn’t want a receipt or have the donation recorded, saying he had “enough paper work to deal with”.

Mr Turner had said Mr Richardson could use the money to pay FF expenses.

Judge Mary Faherty suggested Mr Richardson could have lodged the money to the Fianna Fáil account as an anonymous donation. He replied: “I was asked to keep it confidential.”

Replying to Judge Gerald Keys, Mr Richardson said Mr Turner had told him not to inform anybody about the donation.

Immediately, tribunal chairman Judge Alan Mahon said Mr Richardson was informing somebody. He referred to Mr Richardson’s hand-written note to FF finance director Sean Fleming naming Mr Turner and his $10,000 donation.

Mr Richardson was appointed party fundraiser in 1993 by Bertie Ahern, who was then party treasurer and who was a signatory of the FF bank account with Albert Reynolds.

At the time, the party was crippled by a debt of £3m.

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