Panama Papers: Frank Flannery unaware of link to account

Former Fine Gael strategist Frank Flannery has denied any knowledge of links between him and an off-shore British Virgin Islands account, saying he left the exact details of his financial deals up to his now deceased accountant.

Panama Papers: Frank Flannery unaware of link to account

Mr Flannery made the claim as he confirmed he is seeking all Panama files records relating to him this week and alleged the furore has seen him put “on the same level as [Russian President Vladimir] Putin”.

Details revealed in the more than 11.5m records obtained by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists show a British Virgin Islands company pledged £250,000 in a Jersey bank account as security for a mortgage taken out by Mr Flannery and his wife in 1996.

The mortgage, from Bank of Ireland’s private banking sector in London, was used to buy 19 Chalcot Crescent in the Primrose Hill area of north London for £650,000. The security was provided by the International Funding Promotions firm.

The reference to Mr Flannery is one of the most high-profile of over 300 Irish links to the worldwide scandal. Others allegations include claims a Dublin home was used as the address for firms linked to Indian and Filipino arms deals.

The papers also include revelations that Anglo Irish Bank’s Austrian branch was among a small number of facilities repeatedly recommended by Mossack Fonseca — the Panama-based law firm at the centre of the scandal — for clients as a way to set up off-shore accounts.

While offshore holdings can be legal, they can also be used to hide wealth.

Former Rehab director Mr Flannery confirmed to the Irish Examiner that he and his wife bought the north London home in 1996, but denied any knowledge of the British Virgin Island account’s involvement.

He said the home was used “as an investment thing, sometimes as a residency and sometimes as investment” but did not know in what years the property related to either category.

Asked about the exact nature of the finances which led to the property purchase, Mr Flannery said it was difficult to remember as it was 20 years ago, but insisted he is unaware of any involvement from a British Virgin Islands or Jersey-based firm.

However, he added that his then accountant — who he has declined to name and who is now deceased — oversaw transactions “as I wouldn’t have been hugely hands on”.

Mr Flannery said the first he heard of question marks over the property deal was last Tuesday when he was contacted by a newspaper for comment. He said he is now seeking full access to the records related to him.

Describing the reports of his financial affairs as “a huge invasion of privacy”, he added: “I’ve been put on the same level as Putin and [Argentina and Barcelona footballer Lionel] Messi.”

Fine Gael Jobs Minister Richard Bruton said anyone found to have been attempting to avoid tax or to have taken part in illegal activities as part of the Panama files would be “vigorously prosecuted”.

Sinn Féin finance spokesman Pearse Doherty has separately written to the Revenue Commissioners urging a full investigation into any potential loss to the Irish State revealed by the Panama files.

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