The Mahon Tribunal and Bertie Ahern
On Friday, 23 February last the chairman of the Planning Tribunal, Judge Alan Mahon, explained why the Tribunal was enquiring into Bertie Ahern's financial records.
“There is a reference from the evidence of Mr Gilmartin that he was told by Mr (Owen) O'Callaghan, that he, Mr O'Callaghan, had paid sums of £50,000 and £30,000 to Mr Ahern to Mr. Gilmartin. I should emphasise that Mr O'Callaghan has denied that any such thing was said to Mr Gilmartin. And both Mr. O'Callaghan and Mr. Ahern deny any suggestion that money was paid by Mr. O'Callaghan to Mr. Ahern.
Because of this evidence particularly, the Tribunal proceeded to inquire into Mr. Ahern's finances for the purposes of identifying any payments made to him or persons on his behalf from Mr. O'Callaghan or any other person or other entity on his behalf. Other witnesses have been subjected to similar lines of inquiry, not necessarily involving Mr. O'Callaghan.
The Tribunal must be mindful of the possibility that if any payment was in fact made by Mr O'Callaghan or someone on his behalf to Mr. Ahern, or someone on his behalf, and I emphasise the word “if”, it is unlikely that the involvement of Mr. O'Callaghan in any such payment would be clear or obvious on any available documentary evidence relating to such a payment. And furthermore, the Tribunal has to be mindful of the possibility that if any such payment was made, and again I emphasise the word “if”, it might well have been made through one or more third parties and by way of small payments over a period of time.
As its inquiry in its private stage proceeded to look at Mr. Ahern's finances, including his accounts and other accounts which held funds to which he was beneficially entitled, it discovered that within the relevant period being inquired into by the Tribunal, there were a number of very substantial payments of almost entirely cash sums into these accounts and transfers of significant sums between accounts. In a 12 month period approximately there were lodgements of such sums amounting to approximately two and a half times Mr. Ahern's known and admitted income at the time.
Once the Tribunal embarked on an investigation of Mr. Ahern's finances, for the reasons I have suggested, it was obviously necessary and prudent that the Tribunal would seek evidence as to the sources of these substantial payments of money and an explanation for the movement of funds between accounts. Because of the lack of source material and records relating to these payments this exercise has turned out to be a painstaking and very slow and frustrating process.
However, it is a process that has to be completed not just for the integrity of the Tribunal but also to allow Mr. Ahern explain these funds and protect his good name.
Over the years the investigation of the finances of individuals and companies in circumstances where substantial amounts of cash were involved, and where there is little or nothing by way of record keeping, has proven to be enormously difficult and lengthy.
Finally, it is appropriate that we should emphasise the fact that this explanation as to the link between the pain-staking investigation of Mr. Ahern's finances and Quarryvale and Mr. O'Callaghan and Mr. Gilmartin has been provided on many occasions, both in the course of lengthy and detailed correspondence with Mr. Ahern's solicitors, and it has also been stated by me in public when this very same issue was raised by Mr. Ahern in the course of his evidence in December last year. I, at that time took a few moments to carefully and briefly explain the connection to him”.