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Transparency International Ireland calls for Irish and Norwegian investigations into payments to Fine Gael and former Communications Minister

Transparency International (Transparency) Ireland has asked that the Gardaí, Criminal Assets Bureau, Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement and Norwegian authorities lead investigations into any prima facie criminal activities or company law violations surrounding the award of Ireland’s second mobile licence in 1995. The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) will also be asked to review progress in the case.

The statement comes after Tuesday’s publication of the final Moriarty Tribunal report on payments to Irish politicians which found that the former Minister for Communications Michael Lowry had received over £500,000 in secret payments in respect of his time as Minister overseeing the award of the telecommunications licence.

The anti-corruption group has also called for:

1. The identification and potential freezing of profits arising from any illicit payment made directly or indirectly to Mr Lowry by Mr Denis O’Brien, or any other members of the winning Esat Digifone consortium, or their agents.

2. The Norwegian authorities to investigate an attempt by Telenor Mobile to make a secret £50,000 (€63,000) donation to the Fine Gael party after the award of the licence to the Esat Digifone consortium of which Telenor Mobile was a member.

3. The Irish authorities to investigate alleged corrupt payments by Mr Ben Dunne to Mr Michael Lowry T.D. and any apparent illicit enrichment arising from Mr Dunne’s payments.

“If evidence of criminal wrongdoing is uncovered by the Gardaí and Norwegian authorities, prosecutions must follow. Where there is sufficient evidence to show that profits have arisen from corrupt transactions, those profits must be seized by the Irish State”, said John Devitt, Chief Executive of Transparency Ireland. “It is also worth noting that if a finding were made of corrupt enrichment arising from the award of the second mobile licence, the proceeds from a seizure could more than recoup the running costs of the Moriarty Tribunal for the Irish taxpayer”, Mr. Devitt added.

Transparency Ireland has also called on Mr Justice Moriarty to forward any evidence of obstruction or attempts to mislead the Tribunal to the Director of Public Prosecutions.

Systemic change needed to prevent repeat of abuse of power

In 2009, Transparency Ireland published a National Integrity System study on the risk of corruption in Ireland and made some 40 recommendations to deal with them. Not one of the recommendations has been fully implemented. Transparency repeats its call for reforms that would help both clean up politics and help prevent the kind of abuse found in both Moriarty Tribunal reports.

Transparency Ireland has urged the new government to ensure:

1.The introduction of legislation banning corporate donations and consider the introduction of an opt-out system to allow taxpayers to make small contributions to political parties.

2. The publication of audited and standardised accounts by all political parties.

3. A mandatory register of lobbyists with criminal and civil sanctions for failure to disclose the identity of clients and income.

4. The publication of all sources of donations to political parties over €100 as well as the identity of ‘bundlers’ or organisers of fundraising events and appeals.

5. The delegation of powers to the Standards in Public Office Commission to appoint an Inquiries Officer to investigate suspected violations of the Ethics Acts without a complaint.

6. The introduction of universal whistleblower legislation that would protect civil servants and workers in the private sector for reporting concerns in the public interest.

7. The review of all public contracts over a certain value by the Comptroller and Auditor General with additional emphasis on compliance with anti-fraud and corruption safeguards.

8. The ratification of the United Nations Convention against Corruption.

For any press enquiries please contact

John Devitt
T: +353 (0)86 173 5040

Piaras Murphy
T: +353 (0)86 384 1852