Reynolds attacks Ahern for accepting payments
By Shaun Connolly, Political Correspondent Examiner January 2007
FORMER Taoiseach Albert Reynolds yesterday launched a blistering attack on his successor Bertie Ahern for taking financial loans and gifts while Finance Minister.
Mr Reynolds indicated the Taoiseach’s judgement in the matter had damaged Irish public life.(Like Charlie before him )
In an outspoken intervention that re-ignited the ‘Bertiegate’ affair which came close to destroying Mr Ahern’s premiership last autumn, Mr Reynolds insisted he would have forbidden his then finance minister from taking loans and gifts worth €62,000 from individuals if he had been aware of it.
"I always strongly believed that there was no way a member of a government should finance anything he was doing in that respect. I was Minister for Finance and nobody ever offered me money," Mr Reynolds told RTÉ Radio One’s Marian Finucane Show. "Now, I know there were circumstances there, and there was a marriage break-up and what have you. But I still don’t think — and I think it’s bad for politics and bad for everything — if there’s a view out there, you know, that money can be got if you’re a minister or a Taoiseach, in relation to what you’re doing in normal daily life," he said.
In another attack on his successor, Mr Reynolds, Taoiseach from February 1992 to November 1994, insisted he would not have allowed Mr Ahern to accept the payments if he had been told about them.
Mr Ahern was Finance Minister under Mr Reynolds when he accepted €50,000 in loans from 12 friends in 1993 and 1994.
It later emerged that Mr Ahern had also taken a stg£8,000 (€12,000) "whip round" from businessmen at a dinner in Manchester he attended in 1994. Mr Ahern said they "insisted" he took the money to help pay for the costs arising from his marriage separation.
Though he described the loans as a "debt of honour", Mr Ahern did not repay them until after they became public last October when he handed back €90,000 — including 12 years’ interest — to the Dublin friends with the bulk of the money going to charity.
Mr Ahern claimed the revelations about the loans were part of a "sinister plot" to destroy him and the public rallied to his support with Fianna Fáil receiving a sharp boost in the polls after the matters came to light.
Mr Reynolds is known to have had a difficult relationship with his successor as party leader and stated he was "well and truly shafted" over the Fianna Fáil 1997 presidential nomination.
A Fianna Fáil spokesman said Mr Ahern, who is on a tour to the Middle East,(Life is a holiday-What a wonderful world) had "already dealt" with the issues surrounding the affair.
Ireland's wealthiest taxdodgers-all friends of Fianna fail-(Except Denis O'Brien) rush to the defence of the unions and attack the only tax compliant multi-millionaire left in the country.!!Ryanair boss: Ireland's biggest plc taxpayer
Sunday, July 28, 2002
By Michael Murray (Business Post)
Michael O'Leary, the chief executive of Ryanair, is believed to be the biggest payer of income and capital gains tax among Ireland's leading entrepreneurs.
O'Leary has sold more than €200 million of Ryanair shares in the past four years, paying capital gains tax to the Exchequer of €40 million. He also paid income tax last year of €230,000 on his salary and bonus of €543,000.
His Irish tax residency liabilities in Ireland have contrasted starkly with the positions of Michael Smurfit, Tony O'Reilly, Denis O'Brien, David Doyle and Dermot Desmond.
All these entrepreneurs have been either non-resident in Ireland for tax purposes or moved their residence overseas with the result that they avoided substantial capital gains tax liabilities.
Smurfit, whose salary and remuneration package has been the subject of major controversy among shareholders, has been non-resident in Ireland for tax purposes for many years. He lives in the tax haven of Monaco, thus avoiding Irish income tax on his €2.75 million annual salary and on his bonus which was €6 million in 2000.
Smurfit will also be receiving €255 million for his shares in Smurfit assuming that shareholders approve the deal at an extraordinary general meeting tomorrow. Typically, he would have to pay capital gains tax of up to €50 million on this.
However, he will not be liable for capital gains tax to the Irish Revenue Commissioners because of his Monaco tax residency, despite his frequent use of Irish public services.
Denis O'Brien, who made a capital gain of about €300 million on the sale of his shares in Esat, became tax-resident in Portugal for three years.
Under Portuguese law, he would have been exempt from tax on gains if the shares were held prior to 1st January 2001.
Under Irish tax residency laws, you must spend fewer than 90 days a year in Ireland to become non-resident for tax purposes.
Ansbacher depositor David Doyle, on agreeing a sale of his shares in Doyle Hotels to Jurys, also took up tax residence in Portugal with the advantage that it enabled him to avoid paying Irish capital gains tax on the asset disposal.
Dermot Desmond has been tax-resident in Gibraltar for many years whilst the current tax residency of Tony O'Reilly is, according to an Independent News & Media spokesman, "a private matter".
Friday December 29 2006
Only six people have done time in prison in the past decade for tax dodging - despite an array of tax evasion scams being revealed.
But eight times that number, or 48 people, have received jail sentences for social welfare scamming since 1997.
The Labour Party has attacked the failure to prosecute more tax dodgers and wants to see them get the same hardline treatment as welfare fraudsters.
Figures for the past 10 years, compiled by this newspaper, show the system seems to be far tougher on fraudulent welfare claims than on tax dodging.
It emerged in recent weeks that the biggest tax evaders in the history of the State will not face any criminal prosecution.
Brothers Michael and Tom Bailey, the proprietors of the construction giant Bovale, made a settlement for €22m - the largest tax settlement ever seen in the country. Yet the Revenue Commissioners said a prosecution was not tenable in the case.
The statistics show that a total of 12 years in prison time was served by 48 people since 1997 for welfare fraud. Meanwhile, three years and nine months in prison was completed by six tax dodgers.
So while tax dodgers get longer sentences, on average, prison sentences for tax offences are fewer. There were 3,183 prosecutions initiated for welfare fraud and 39 prosecutions for tax evasion. Nobody was jailed for tax dodging in six of the past 10 years.
Suspended sentences, community service and fines were imposed in numerous cases for both tax and welfare offences.
The taxman has taken in €2.25bn from special investigations into scams including DIRT, NIB, Ansbacher, Pick Me Up Schemes, Offshore Accounts and Life Assurance Products. These tax scams involved over 32,000 cases.
The passage of time, the difficulty in collecting evidence, the likelihood of getting people to co-operate and the burden of proof are all seen by Revenue as serious barriers to taking prosecutions in tax evasion cases.
Revenue Commissioners chairman Frank Daly has defended the taxman's prosecution record, but expressed disappointment with some of the sentences which have been doled out in the courts after the amount of effort put into bringing the cases.
The fact that all the tax and substantial interest and penalties have been paid by the time the case goes to court tends to influence sentencing, he said.
Labour finance spokesperson Joan Burton says the system is sending out a message to some tax dodgers that it is worth taking the risk. Ms Burton said the multimillion euro tax settlements with no criminal case contrast starkly with those who defraud social welfare for smaller sums and are rightly prosecuted through the courts system.
She said the Department of Social Welfare seems to have a more proactive record of taking prosecutions than the Revenue Commissioners. "Although the Revenue Commissioners are taking a tougher line, it can be well worth taking a chance because the chance of being prosecuted is still so slim," she said.
Revenue argues that it is not fair to compare their rate of prosecutions for serious tax evasion with figures from the Department of Social Welfare. Revenue says it takes 1,000 prosecutions every year for less serious offences such as non-filing, and takes hundreds of prosecutions on the customs and excise side.
The number of prosecutions for social welfare fraud is still 10 times that of Revenue for serious cases. The social welfare cases still go through the courts," Ms Burton said.
- Fionnan Sheahan(Irish Independent)