Collins declines to comment on Ansbacher letter to PAC

Mike Dwane

Reporter:

Mike Dwane

Former minister Gerry Collins: I have never had or held an Ansbacher account or a Guinness & Mahon bank account and I would welcome any investigation into this matter
FORMER Minister for Justice Gerry Collins has declined to comment on correspondence from his solicitors accusing the Public Accounts Committee of “exceeding its jurisdiction” in any further pursuit of allegations he had an Ansbacher offshore account.

FORMER Minister for Justice Gerry Collins has declined to comment on correspondence from his solicitors accusing the Public Accounts Committee of “exceeding its jurisdiction” in any further pursuit of allegations he had an Ansbacher offshore account.

Mr Collins, as well as another retired Limerick minister, Des O’Malley, earlier this month emphatically denied tax evasion allegations contained in a dossier prepared for the committee by whistleblowing civil servant Gerry Ryan.

When the names of prominent former politicians contained in the dossier – including the two Limerickmen – were read into the Dail record under parliamentary privilege by Sinn Fein deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald this month, the claims were vehemently denied by all concerned.

Mr O’Malley said there was nothing new in the allegations which had been “extensively investigated already by the Revenue Commissioners, the gardai and the Moriarty Tribunal several years ago”.

And Mr Collins, who is also a former Minister for Foreign Affairs, also issued a statement shortly after Deputy McDonald’s intervention.

“I have never had or held an Ansbacher account or a Guinness & Mahon bank account and I would welcome any investigation into this matter,” Mr Collins stated then.

Despite this assertion, news reports over the weekend reveal that Mr Collins’ solicitors have written to the PAC warning that the committee “is exceeding its jurisdiction by initiating any examination relating to or connected with the contents of the dossier”.

Committee chairman John McGuinness has responded that no further inquiries are planned.

Extracts from the letter, from Eames Solicitors, have been published in The Sunday Business Post.

That letter suggests is was clear that the PAC was “proposing to continue its examination of issues arising from the allegations contained in the dossier” in spite of legal advice it had received. One of the issues at stake is whether cases of alleged tax evasion are appropriate matters for a committee whose primary remit is public spending.

The Eames’ letter to the PAC said it would be “extraordinary” to have public hearings into allegations “without first putting on notice those individuals directly affected”.

Mr Collins’ solicitors continue by requesting “all papers held by the PAC in relation to and or connected with the dossier so as to understand the allegations made against him and to enable him to obtain the necessary advices”.

A further request is made that the PAC convene no further hearings on the matter “or resume its examinations of issues arising from the dossier unless and until the information sought in this letter has been furnished to this office and sufficient time is given to respond”.

Outgoing head of the Revenue Commissioners Josephine Feehily has already told the PAC that the allegations against former senior politicians contained in the Ryan dossier have been investigated fully.

And the chairman of the committee, Fianna Fail’s John McGuinness, has also said in recent days that the PAC’s involvement is over as far as he is concerned.

“We’ve already had Revenue in. They are satisfied they have investigated all of the allegations.

We’ve been reassured there is no outstanding debt,” Deputy McGuinness said.

Contacted by the Limerick Leader this week, Mr Collins declined to comment on Deputy McGuinness’ statement there would be no further inquiries by the PAC into the dossier.

Other than saying the allegations made against him had been “very serious”, he referred all other questions to his solicitors.