The Sunday Independent is running a story this morning which claims that, in 1994, then Finance Minister Bertie Ahern carried a briefcase full of cash on a flight to the UK. The cash had been withdrawn from a Dublin bank the previous day by Celia larkin. The source of the story is supposedly a retired garda Martin Farrell who was Ahern’s driver in 1994. It’s claimed that he first approached Fine Gael’s Jim Higgins and Enda kenny in 2000, and subsequently repeated the accusations in a phone conversation with Higgins which was also heard by Jody Corcoran of the Sindo.
Higgins reported the conversations to the then Flood Tribunal but retired garda Fallon is refusing to make any statement to the Planning Tribunal.
This “exclusive” has all the hallmarks of a belated attempt by Fine Gael to sink Bertie in a sea of sleaze in the weeks before the election, having failed to nail him late last year over his loan/gift dig-out from a group of friends.
However, if the Criminal Assets Bureau was investigating this matter, they would have a hard time believing that the Minister for Finance operated on a cash basis for several years in the early 1990s and had no bank account of any sort at that time. Indeed, they would recognise this as possibly being a clever way of removing any risk of creating a money trail which might subsequently be used to expose corrupt payments and their source. In The Sopranos, Tony Soprano routinely kept large quantities of cash concealed in his garden compost container.
I don’t know what Bertie may or may not have been up to, but I personally don’t believe that the money he acknowledges receiving in mid 1990s was anything other than a gift. Eleven years later to categorise it as a series of small loans defies belief, but was an essential fig-leaf to explain why no tax had been paid on the gift. Indeed, Bertie’s PR people talked of his attitude that these were debts of honour which he had always wanted to repay.
This reminded me of Charlie Haughey under interrogation at the tribunal regarding his unpaid bad debt with AIB. He categorised it as a debt of honour but was challenged by the tribunal’s counsel as to why, in that case, he hadn’t paid it off after all these years. “I haven’t dishonoured it” retorted Haughey.
Clearly Fianna Failers take a Chinese view of appropriate timeframes.
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