BERTIE AHERN’S explosive admission that he used a political donation for personal use and did not declare it to the Revenue for 12 years saw him branded a “tax dodger” last night.
Fine Gael seized on the revelation after another extraordinary day of testimony from the Taoiseach to the Mahon corruption probe in which Mr Ahern said he did not know where £10,000 worth of lodgments into his account came from.
The startling evidence saw Mr Ahern testify he could not name the source of a £5,000 deposit into an Irish Permanent account in 1994, but believed it to be a “political donation for my personal use” from an unnamed businessman now dead.
Asked why the Taoiseach lodged a political donation in an account intended to be used to save a deposit for a mortgage, Mr Ahern said: “I would only do that if they said that money is for you — it’s for Bertie Ahern — it’s for your use. If they said it was for my political job I’d give it to my constituency.”
Mr Ahern added he also could not be sure of the origin of another £5,000 lodgment, but thought it came from his brother.
However, the Taoiseach had not informed Revenue about the monies, and his potential liability for gift tax, until a dozen years later in 2006.
Fine Gael’s tribunal spokesman Senator Eugene Regan said the “astonishing” revelations underlined the fact Mr Ahern is unfit for office.
“We can now say for certain that the Taoiseach, when minister for finance in the early 1990s, did not pay his taxes — he was a tax dodger,” said Mr Regan.
The tribunal also scrutinised the highly unusual financial arrangements centring on the Taoiseach’s Drumcondra-based Fianna Fáil constituency party.
It emerged a £5,000 general election donation cheque given by Davy stockbrokers in November 1992 ended up in an account a number of months later.
The account was in the name of FF constituency official Tim Collins, who stated in writing when opening it that the account was for his sole use only.
However, Mr Ahern insisted it was a Fianna Fáil account primarily concerned with the maintenance of the party’s St Luke’s office.
Mr Ahern explained a £30,000 withdrawal from the account in 1993 as going to help to pay for a house for three elderly relatives of a party worker.
This debt was only repaid in “recent weeks or months”, he added.
More than £47,000 has remained untouched in the account since 1995 and it was only last month that other party figures were named on the account.
There was a flash of anger from Mr Ahern after he told tribunal counsel Des O’Neill that he had lodged €7,000 given to him by his mother in a savings account.
When asked to explain why his story had changed from his previous statement that he believed the source of monies had been political donations not gifts, Mr Ahern turned to Judge Mahon and demanded to know if he had to explain the financial affairs of his late mother and father.
“I was given it by my mother. I did not ask my mother how she got it and I can’t ask her now,” he said.
Senior counsel for Mr Ahern Conor Maguire again attacked the tribunal for its “intrusive” questioning of the Taoiseach.
Mr Maguire questioned why the original allegations levelled at Mr Ahern that he took a bribe from a developer had not been touched upon and claimed his legal team were not being given documents they are entitled to.
Mr Ahern agreed with lawyers for the Mahon Tribunal that a £19,000 loan he took out with AIB in 1993 was not necessary because he had £54,000 in savings to cover a number of outstanding bills.
Mr Ahern returns to the tribunal witness box today as the High Court readies to hear his upcoming challenge to the probe asking him about statements he made to the Dáil.
Figures from yesterday’s evidence:
By Paul O’Brien
£54,000 — Roughly the amount Mr Ahern had in savings in December 1993.
£22,500 — Amount he received from “dig-out” organised by friends in ‘93.
£5,000 — Donation from NCB stockbrokers.
£5,000 — Lodgment to IPBS account opened by Mr Ahern in Jan 1994, the origin of which he cannot explain other than it was “a political donation for my personal use”.
£5,000 — Another lodgment to IPBS account whose origin Mr Ahern cannot confirm. The lodgment was made in Dec 1995. In Jan 2007, Mr Ahern said it was a political donation. Yesterday, however, he said this £5,000 came from his late father’s estate.
£7,000 — Lodgment to IPBS account in March 1994, which he says also stemmed from his father’s estate.
£10,068 — One of several other lodgments to the account which Mr Ahern says were accumulations of his salary cheques.
£5,000 — Donation from Davy stockbrokers which went into another IPBS account.
£19,288.40 — One of the lodgments to this second IPBS account, which Mr Ahern says were the proceeds from a golf classic.
€47,803.52 — Amount currently sitting in this account, which has lain dormant since 1995.
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