end corruption,stroke politics, & incompetent administration

The enigma of Liam lawlor (RIP)

The whereabouts of Liam's wealth may never be known.

It lies far from Irish shores in a labyrinthine maze of tax havens and off shore companies. His developer associates' secrets, are also safe.

Many of these shadowy figures may now be entering NAMA,

but their worldwide investment secrets will never be known to the Irish taxpayer or Revenue authorities.

JUSTINE McCARTHY on the riddle of Liam Lawlor's extravagant spending, a mere five years after being in serious financial straits

Take the coats for starters. There's that navy wool Crombie-style one with the

distinctive German tailoring and a perceptible cashmere content.

 He wore it to Dublin Castle a couple of times, nonchalantly shrugging its smooth

raglan shoulders to the trailing media cameras.

Then there's the rich camel number, double-breasted and screaming "expensive".

The don't-mess-with-me cut of a coat Philip Marlowe might have worn.

You'd be lucky to squeeze change out of £1,000 for the pair of them.

Next, take a look at the fleet of cars. The big, dark 97-D BMW 7-Series that ferried him to the Four Courts.

And the other Beamer, the '94 Wexford -reg model.

Then there's the second Wexford car, the Toyota Carina that dropped him off at the jailhouse.

They might not all be his (or they might be an economy-driven trade-down from the top-of- the-range Mercs he used to favor),

but he has had them at his disposal whenever a rolling news camera hovered into the picture.

The motors come complete with a driver, too. Essential that, since another court put him off the road for a year and fined him £116 last March for drink-driving.

Now, consider his legal team: a former Attorney General, in the shape of John Rogers, and the country's leading, near-legendary criminal lawyer  Paddy McEntee.

Before that, he had Adrian Hardiman on his side as well, until the chalk-striped legal eagle was whisked off to serve his country onthe bench of the Supreme Court.

Three of the most fashionable silks in town, no less. It's a safe bet they wouldn't come cheap.

The total cost for the various trips to the land's two highest courts stands at around £400,000, the experts reckon.

A sum that would inhibit many ordinary citizens from setting foot inside the hallowed Round Hall,

but it was rumoured during the week that a friend of his was footing the bill

This, alas, remains no more than a rumour, as the friend in question hasn't returned our calls yet.

While we're at it, don't forget the three mobile phones. Or the Brown Thomas credit card.

(OK, so we don't know about that for sure, but it's unlikely the Tribunal would have asked him about it

if they didn't already know he had one; it's the old lawyer's dictum that you never ask a question  unless you already know the answer).

And then there's the house nay, a veritable mansion, they say. A Georgian listed building with paddock and tennis court attached,

and a pair of forbidding iron gates.

Worth between £1.5 and £2 million, the property industry estimates.

And to think that five years ago Liam Moneybags Lawlor was in serious financial straits.

He couldn't get credit as long ago as 1987, his brother-in- law, Noel Gilsen, told the tribunal.

He had been, er, "financially embarrassed", a situation that couldn't be easy for someone known to splash out £65,000 on a Mercedes. And as recently as 1996 he was still trying to paying off huge debts.

In November 1992, the Bank of Nova Scotia instituted debt-recovery proceedings against him for £18,487.

Eleven months later, it was the Bank of Ireland's turn, securing a judgement from the High Court

(how Liam Lawlor must love that place!) for £49,100. The following month,

Woodchester Bank went to the Circuit Court and got an order for £23,900.

And, a year later, in November '94, Irish Nationwide Building Society applied for an adjournment

on Circuit Court proceedings it had taken to repossess his house.

The hapless backbencher was obliged to sell off 23 acres of his estate, which he had been letting

to a local farmer for pasture grazing.

Three acres from that 23 were said to be worth £350,000 after they were rezoned in February

1993, on a motion tabled by Fianna Fail  councillor Colm McGrath who, it has been reported, got

£30,000 from Quarryvale developer Owen O'Callaghan.

But the sale, in July '95 when Lawlor was Fianna Fail's arts, culture and heritage spokesman, only made a modest £410,000

(considering its value jumped to nearly £7 million when it was rezoned three years later) and left him with a tidy necklace of land laid around his house, Somerton.

 Though he notified a Naas bank manager by letter that the land sale was more than adequate to discharge all his debts,

he later told the Tribunal that he needed a £600,000 loan from the Czech Republic to satisfy the court judgements.

Despite the fact that he has continuously been a TD for Dublin West since then, he seems not only to have survived the crisis, but to have made a whole new fortune to fund a costly lifestyle.

It involves frequent flights across the Atlantic to visit his only grandchild and his three Clongowes- educated sons

(one works in a bank there and another went over on a golf scholarship).

The 56-year-old former Dublin hurler and New York marathon runner has one daughter who works in internet advertising in Dublin.

It's a mystery how Liam Lawlor can afford the coats and cars, the mobiles and credit cards, the mansion, the rounds of golf that keep him away from Tribunal hearings, and the foreign travel on a TD's current salary of £41,339.

His membership of two Oireachtas committees does not entitle him to any extra allowance either

and, in the declaration of TDs' interests up to January 2000, he stated that he had no other occupational income besides his Dail salary.

In an earlier declaration, he said he was on a monthly retainer from two companies and Strategic Consultants, and Rotary M&E Service but they appear to have ended. In addition, he spent £5,221 trying to get re-elected to Dublin County Council

in 1999 and, in the register of political donations for the same year, he disclosed no donations of more than £500.

Meanwhile, the Flood Tribunal is trying to establish the provenance of the £2.6 million lodgement s

it has so far failed to identify from his £4.5 million tally between 18 separate bank accounts over a period of 17 years.

Liam Lawlor made his first fortune nearly three decades ago with a cold store refrigeration company he founded in Rathcoole,

Co Dublin, and which he sold to the international conglomerate, Hall Thermotank.

That gave him the entree to Larry Goodman, which led to a directorship of Food Industries and his resignation of the Oireachtas

Committee on State Bodies over a conflict of interest relating to Irish Sugar.

The evidence culled from his financial history strongly suggests that his first fortune is long since blown.

He has had more monetary ups and downs than a bouncy castle at a party for hyperactive kids

but it may be just the sort of stress graph that will help him withstand the privations of prison life.

Robert McCabe, a political friend in Lucan for the past 20 years, talked to the TD on Wednesday morning, before he set out for Mountjoy, and found him in philosophical mood.

"It's just something he feels he has to get through," reports the ship's captain with the

Commissioners of Irish Lights.

"He seems to take it on the chin. He just wants to put it behind him."

But somebody else who has a peripheral role in the denouement of Liam Lawlor believes that the Tribunal will eventually break him.

"Even if he doesn't co-operate when he gets out next week, he will . . . eventually," this man predicts.

He points to Frank Dunlop, who famously described his own anatomical parts as "balls of iron and a spine of steel",

only to leave the Tribunal a visibly shrunken man.

Liam Lawlor has four more nights, including tonight, of his prison sentence to serve.

By coincidence, he will walk free next Wednesday, the same day the Supreme Court is due to deliver its ruling

on the refusal of solicitor Stephen Miley to name the beneficial owners of Jackson Way Properties, on the grounds of legal privilege.

The offshore company settled a legal wrangle with Dun Laoghaire Rathdown Council over the

south-eastern motorway in 1999, a year after the  local authority had rezoned the company's 106 acres in Carrickmines to industrial use.

Two business people who are reputedly associated with Liam Lawlor have also been mentioned in

connection with the south Dublin lands.

Arcade owner and former builder Jim Kennedy, in whose Westmoreland Street premises Frank Dunlop received large amounts of money, is reported to have previously owned the site.

The reclusive multi millionaire Jim Kennedy ,former slot machine,gambling arcade owner -and once Irish citizen, is now tax exiled in the Isle of Man.

 Jim has been flushed out of hiding because the CAB Criminal Assets Bureau in Ireland have frozen some 50 million Euros worth of rezoned land in Carrickmines which is almost certainly his.

 he arrived in Ireland to try and reclaim it in October 2010,and was held for questioning for a brief period

 by the police but feigning illness in custody he was removed to hospital for examination.

 Hopefully the illness will be in his pocket an the land  confiscated.

Better still if he spent a term in an Irish jail (although that is a remote and highly unlikely

possibility!) Ireland is not a country noted
for jailing white collar criminals or fraudsters of any kind.

It has been separately reported that John Caldwell, the managing partner of Binchy's law firm,

which has acted for Jim Kennedy in the past, has an interest in Jackson Way. Binchy's was in the news last year when it was claimed that solicitor/client phone conversations dealing with th  McBrearty murder case in Donegal were being tapped by the gardai.

By coincidence, Lawlor's current solicitor, Brian Delahunty, who runs his own practice in Phibsboro, began his career with Binchy's.

His brother, Ray Delahunt, was the juniour counsel on Lawlor's side in the contempt proceedings.

Liam Lawlor's continued membership of Dail Eireann might be the least of his problems when he gets his liberty back next week.

While his senior counsel hinted strongly in the High Court that the politician would be able to explain £1.5 million of the mystery £2.5 million, there can be no quick fix to his dilemma. If he starts co-operating immediately, he can

still expect to remain in the witness box at the castle for a long time to come.

Another incumbent of witness boxes within the fortress, Charlie Haughey, had a habit of paying his minions compliments, which came to be the scourge of them.

He did it when he trumpeted Bertie Ahern's cunning. In the case of Liam Lawlor, his immortal

words were: "If you want something done, ask Liam."

There are some who would agree. But Fergus Flood wouldn't be one of them.