Ireland's prime minister denies corruption

Ireland's Prime Minister Bertie Ahern said Thursday that he didn't take payments from developers during the 1990s and called allegations that he did reckless and scurrilous, Ireland's national broadcaster RTE reported.

Ireland's prime minister denies corruption
Ireland's Prime Minister Bertie Ahern said Thursday that he didn't take payments from developers during the 1990s and called allegations that he did reckless and scurrilous, Ireland's national broadcaster RTE reported.

Ahern began Thursday two days of questioning at a tribunal in Dublin over unexplained cash lodgements totalling more than 120,000 British pounds (243,860 dollars).

In an opening statement lasting more than 15 minutes Ahern said that during 30 years in politics he never took a bribe and the tribunal has never uncovered any wrongdoing by him.

The tribunal was established by the Irish Government in November 1997 to look into planning corruption allegations.

It began its inquiries into Ahern's finances nearly two years ago, but it still is not satisfied the cash lodgements have been properly explained.

The tribunal is investigating bank lodgements Ahern made to the Allied Irish Bank (AIB) in O'Connell Street in Dublin in 1994 and 1995. All of the lodgements were preceded by foreign exchange transactions.

Ahern insisted Thursday that a lodgement of almost 30,000 pounds in December 1994 was sterling and not 45,000 US dollars as claimed by the tribunal.

Ahern's former partner Celia Larkin was quizzed by the tribunal Wednesday about the lodgement she made on behalf of Ahern.

Lawyers for the tribunal claim Larkin has provided various accounts of the lodgement, RTE reported. Larkin says she collected money in a briefcase at the request of Ahern and lodged it to her account.

Ahern said this was sterling from British-based Irish businessman Michael Wall, while the inquiry says it seems to have been 45,000 dollars. Ahern has denied ever receiving dollars.

The Irish premier, who has led the government for 10 years and was returned to office in May parliamentary elections, has repeatedly denied any involvement in corrupt planning and says his unusual financial transactions were caused by his marital breakup.

Ahern had previously claimed that he had been given a "dig-out" by friends to assist him with the costs associated with the break-up.

The tribunal has been told by its most important witness, the property developer and whistleblower Tom Gilmartin, that Cork property developer Owen O'Callaghan told him he paid Ahern 80,000 British pounds to smooth the way for the Liffey Valley shopping centre at Quarryvale in west Dublin.

Ahern and O'Callaghan deny these claims and whilst the tribunal has not found any concrete evidence of such a payment, it has uncovered the other payments made in the early 1990s.

DPA
Last Mod: 13 Eylül 2007, 19:06
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