Push for punishment against those facilitating tax dodgers

FINANCE Minister Brian Cowen yesterday said he will move in the Finance Bill to bring forward measures to punish those who facilitate white collar crime.

Mr Cowen said he was aware of the problems the Revenue Commissioners faced when trying to punish those “who colluded or facilitate tax evasion.”

Replying to a question form Kathleen Lynch of the Labour Party in the Dáil yesterday, Mr Cowen said: “I have considered this matter in the context of the Finance Bill, which will be published later this week. It would not be appropriate for me to comment further on advance of the publication of the Bill.”

But, if implemented, the implications for those in the banks, accountants and others who have helped clients dodge tax go way beyond anything on the statute books.

Concern about failure to jail people for tax evasion has been growing.

Despite years of tax dodging and illicit non-resident accounts neither those who facilitated the crimes nor those who committed them have been jailed.

“I am aware of the difficulties experienced by the Revenue Commissioners when attempting to prosecute persons who collude in or facilitate tax evasion,” he said.

At the recent Oireachtas Committee on Finance and the Public Sector Labour’s Joan Burton asked why those who engaged in tax evasion and those who facilitated it never went to jail.

Fine Gael’s Richard Bruton raised the same issue.

No one has been jailed following the National Irish Bank scandal or at AIB for scandals it was involved in.

The investigation into NIB took seven years to complete and 19 top executives were found guilty.

There is no sign of action, despite the file being with the DPP since July 2004.

Two or three of the NIB bankers are still believed to be working in the financial services sector, which is under investigation by the financial services regulator.

Ms Burton asked why people on social welfare were jailed for minor offences but those involved in huge fraud got away “scot-free”.

Mr Cowen said the law was aimed at those who commit fraud and not those who facilitate it.

In a separate development the Law Reform Commission said white collar criminals should go before courts as ordinary lawbreakers.

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