Graham O’Brien recalled how he and Chris McHugh, former finance director, went along with the approach being taken by then NCB managing director Pádraic O’Connor.
Giving evidence yesterday Mr O’Brien — who was financial controller at the time — recalled how their boss had told them former FF fundraiser Des Richardson asked for £5,000 to part-fund the Taoiseach’s constituency office, St Luke’s in Drumcondra.
This event took place in December 1993. But the Taoiseach insists the £5,000 was a personal loan from Pádraic O’Connor — part of the so-called £22,500 dig-out from friends in late 1993 used to pay a legal bill associated with his marital separation.
The tribunal has heard NCB routed the payment through Euro Workforce Ltd, a company associated with Mr Richardson, to ensure confidentiality.
The invoice — for £5,000, plus 21% VAT, amounted to £6,050 — claimed to be for a health and safety survey of NCB’s Mount Street offices but no such work was done, the tribunal heard.
Mr O’Brien said he first heard Mr Ahern describe the £5,000 payment as a personal payment during his RTÉ interview with Bryan Dobson in late September 2006.
But two months previously, tribunal lawyer Des O’Neill SC pointed out Mr O’Brien had been served with an order for discovery of documents relating to payments to Mr Richardson and Mr Ahern. After getting the order in July 2006, Mr O’Brien said he got in touch with Mr O’Connor to see if he could remember the entity through which the payment was made and Mr O’Connor could not.
He had got in touch with Mr O’Connor because he himself could not remember the entity or the amount of the payment.
Mr O’Brien said he personally checked four years of records and could find no documents and records that he could identify as being payments by NCB to Mr Richardson or Mr Ahern. He had also checked the companies registration office relating to payments to companies of which Mr Richardson was a director.
In mid-2005 Mr O’Brien said he got a telephone call from Mr O’Connor asking what records he had and what was his recollection of the events in 1992 or 1993.
The witness said he would look for records but could not find any. During a private interview with the tribunal, Mr O’Neill recalled how Mr O’Brien said he would have to seek legal advice when asked about the £6,050 payment as he said he could not identify any connection between the Euro Workforce company and Mr Richardson.
Questioned why he was unwilling to name the company, Mr O’Brien said he had no way of connecting that payment to either Mr Richardson or Mr Ahern.