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Shell Corrib Gas Project, Bertie Ahern and Corruption

VIDEO FEATURING COMMENTARY BY FORMER ROYAL DUTCH SHELL EXECUTIVE, PADDY BRIGGS

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1DySF-3b2D0

By John Donovan

In the YouTube.com video above, *Paddy Briggs quotes from the minutes of a meeting of Royal Dutch Shell Group Managing Directors held on 23 July 2003 (MARKED “MOST CONFIDENTIAL”.

“It was noted that development of the Corrib field may be delayed until 2004 as planning consent had been refused for the terminal. The Committee queried whether the Group had sufficiently well placed contacts with the Irish government and regulators. Paul Skinner undertook to explore this issue further in consultation with the Country Chairman in Ireland.”

THE FULL 15 PAGE MINUTES (OBTAINED AND PUBLISHED BY JOHN DONOVAN)

The video also mentions a pivotal Shell meeting with the then Irish Taoiseach (prime minister) of Ireland. It is no secret that Berti Ahern is tainted by corruption – see further information from Wikipedia below.

So there you have it. An Irish Prime Minister who has a track record of corruption associated with planning matters and a greedy ruthless oil giant, also with a track record of corruption. A true meeting of like minds.

This is all to be expected from a multinational which has an ethics boss, Richard Wiseman, an admitted bender of professional rules and loyal supporter of corrupt practices by predatory Shell executives preying on smaller companies. This naturally made Mr Wiseman the perfect choice for appointment as the Chief Ethics & Compliance Officer of Royal Dutch Shell Plc. A lofty position he still holds, traveling the world making anti-corruption speeches.(1) (2)

RELATED: Is there a Shell Corrib connection to the sudden resignation of Irish Premier, Bertie Ahern?: 2 April 2008

RELATED: On Friday, 22nd October 2010 at 6:15 pm, a film about the community at the centre of the Corrib Gas controversy, entitled ‘The Pipe’, will screen at the British Film Institute in Southbank – only a few hundred metres away from the headquarters of the Royal Dutch Shell Group. It was here in this building on the 22nd July 2002, that the Committee of Managing Directors of Shell met to discuss, among other things, the recent refusal of planning consent for the Corrib gas field refinery by the Irish Planning Board. The following decision taken here by the senior Shell management team would set in train a collision course between a tiny community and the Irish State, and one which would have devastating consequences for the inhabitants of the small coastal village of Rossport.

*Paddy Briggs worked for Shell for 37 years, the last 15 of which were in international brand and reputation management appointments. Today, through his BrandAware™ consultancy, he advises businesses on brand and reputation management issues. Paddy is a prolific writer and journalist, especially on his specialist business subjects and on sport. He is also one of two pensioner-elected trustees of the £13 billion Shell Contributory Pension Fund.

FROM WIKIPEDIA ARTICLEBertie Ahern” (22 October 2010)

Admission of undeclared payments

Ahern was criticised by the Moriarty Tribunal for signing blank cheques for the then Taoiseach Charles Haughey, without asking what those cheques were for. Ahern told the tribunal that a policy of signing blank cheques was used on the Fianna Fáil party leader’s account for reasons of “administrative convenience”.[70] In September 2006 The Irish Times printed claims allegedly leaked[71] from The Mahon Tribunal that Ahern had received money from a millionaire businessman while Minister for Finance in 1993.

The editor of The Irish Times defended the publication as being in the public interest at a hearing of the tribunal, saying that it was not a party to the Supreme Court case which restrained the Sunday Business Post from publishing leaked documents. This order was directed against the Sunday Business Post but its interim order purported to restrain all media outlets from publishing confidential material from the inquiry.

Ahern has admitted that he did receive money but said on being interviewed that:

What I got personally in my life, to be frank with you is none of your business. If I got something from somebody as a present or something like that I can use it.

What Ahern said in 1996, while in opposition:

The public are entitled to have an absolute guarantee of the financial probity and integrity of their elected representatives, their officials and above all of Ministers. They need to know that they are under financial obligations to nobody. (Dáil Éireann transcript, December 1996)

This contradiction has been criticised in editorials in both the Irish Independent[72] and The Irish Times[73]

Six days after the payments were publicised, Ahern admitted in a[74] television interview[75] that he had received two payments totalling IR£39,000 (€50,000) in 1993 and 1994. Ahern regarded the money as a loan, but he conceded that no repayments had at that time (September 2006) been made and no interest has been paid. He said that he had attempted to repay it, but that his friends would not accept repayment. He claimed that he had broken no codes – ethical, tax, legal or otherwise.

On 28 November 2007, former NCB managing director Padraic O’Connor at the Mahon Tribunal, “directly contradicted Mr Ahern’s claims that long-standing friends gave him a loan just after Christmas 1993.”[76]

In the same interview, he also admitted to receiving a payment of £8,000 from a group of 25 businessmen in Manchester on one occasion. He claimed that this money was again unsolicited, that it was a gift and therefore not subject to tax as it had been received when abroad, and that it was paid to him after he gave an after-dinner speech at an ad hoc function. He claimed that the money was given to him as a private citizen, not to him in his then role as Minister for Finance, and that no other payments were received by him after speaking at other similar functions. The Irish Times reported on 30 September 2006 that part of this payment was actually a cheque drawn on NCB Stockbrokers, a large Irish company. A number of his benefactors have received appointments as directors of State boards.[77] Insisting that no favours had been offered or received, Ahern said:

I might have appointed somebody but I appointed them because they were friends, not because of anything they had given me.

Under the Standards in Public Office Commission’s rules,

State appointments should be made on the basis of merit, taking into account the skills, qualifications and experience of the person to be appointed.

Members of Dáil Éireann must conduct themselves[78]

in accordance with the provisions and spirit of the Code of Conduct and ensure that their conduct does not bring the integrity of their office or the Dáil into serious disrepute.

In the face of negative publicity, Ahern has repaid the monies advanced to him, with 5% interest totalling €90,000.[79]

On 3 October 2006 Ahern made a 15 minute statement in Dáil Éireann defending his actions in taking loans totalling IR£39,000 (€50,000) from friends in Ireland and £8,000 (€11,800) as a gift from businessmen in Manchester in 1993 and 1994.[80][81][82] In his statement he apologised for the distress his actions had brought saying:

The bewilderment caused to the public about recent revelations has been deeply upsetting for me and others near and dear to me. To them, to the Irish people and to this house, I offer my apologies.

Confirmation of sterling cash lodgements

On 20 March 2008 at the Mahon Tribunal the disclosure,[83][84] of lodgements of £15,500 sterling into building society accounts of Ahern and his daughters was accepted as a matter of probability by Ahern’s former secretary Grainne Carruth.

Previously in her evidence, Carruth, on 19 March 2008 had said, that she had not lodged sterling for Ahern, while she accepted (as a matter of probability), a day later, that she must have lodged sterling on Ahern’s behalf based on the paperwork available although her recollection is that she never had sighting of sterling at any time.

Ahern had told the tribunal during his evidence in February 2008, that the lodgements to his and his daughters’ accounts had come from his salary as a politician.

‘No bank account’

Further questions were raised about IR£50,000 (€63,300) which he had lodged to his bank account in 1994. He claimed this was money he had saved over a substantial period of time (1987–1994) when he had had no active bank account. During this period he was Minister for Labour and subsequently Minister for Finance. He was asked by the leader of the Labour party, Pat Rabbitte whether, in the absence of a bank account, he had kept the money in a ‘sock in the hot-press’ and by Joe Higgins, the leader of the Socialist Party if he had kept the money ‘in a shoe-box’. Ahern replied that he had kept the money ‘in his own possession’.

Payment in relation to house

On 5 October 2006 further information emerged[85] in the Dáil that Ahern had bought his house in Dublin from Manchester based Irish businessman, Micheál Wall, who was at an event in Manchester in 1994 where the Taoiseach received a payment of GBP£8,000 (€11,800). This caused further tensions within the Government coalition parties.

On 10 October 2006 the Taoiseach[35] again told the Dáil that it was an ‘error of judgement’ for him to accept loans and gifts for personal purposes in the early 1990s. Ahern expanded on his apology to the Dáil of the previous week, which he described as unqualified. Ahern said there would now be a change in the ethics law requiring office holders offered a gift from friends to consult the Standards in Public Office Commission[86] and to accept their ruling.

Money from developer

Allegations had been made that he had taken IR£50,000 (€63,300) from a property developer, Owen O’Callaghan, in return for favours at this time. Ahern won a libel action against a Cork businessman, Denis “Starry” O’Brien, defending himself against this allegation. However, broadcaster Eamon Dunphy has testified in the Mahon Tribunal, that he was told by developer Owen O’Callaghan, that Ahern was taken care of to support a shopping centre development in the 1990s.[87] This follows the initial allegations, denied by Ahern and O’Callaghan, by retired developer Tom Gilmartin, that O’Callaghan told him that he had given Ahern a payment of £50,000 in 1989, and a payment of £30,000 in 1993, in connection with a development of lands at Quarryvale, west Dublin. Gilmartin further alleged being told that O’Callaghan had paid Ahern in excess of £20,000 in relation to tax designation of a site in which O’Callaghan had an interest in Athlone, the designation having been Ahern’s last act as Finance Minister before the Fianna Fáil-led Government fell in December 1994.

In March 2007, one of Ahern’s Manchester benefactors, Paddy ‘The Plasterer’ Reilly, was appointed as the Fianna Fáil Director of Elections for Ahern’s Dublin Central constituency.

In April 2007, it was alleged[88] in a statement by his former official driver, that Ahern in 1994, while Minister for Finance, took a briefcase full of cash to Manchester. This has been denied by Ahern.

While the payment details initially seemed to damage Ahern’s standing, the result of the 2007 general election indicated that the damage was minor. In April 2007, an opinion poll found that nearly half of voters believe Taoiseach Bertie Ahern still has questions to answer over the payments controversy.[89]

Payment to refurbish property managed by Celia Larkin

In May 2007, it emerged that Ahern’s then partner, Celia Larkin, received £30,000 from the businessman Micheál Wall to contribute towards the refurbishment of the house that Ahern was to buy later. Questions for Bertie.[90]

Money given to Celia Larkin

On 2 February 2008, it emerged at the Mahon Tribunal, that a house was bought by the Ahern’s former partner Celia Larkin in 1993 with money donated to Ahern’s constituency organisation in Drumcondra.[91] There was no documentation to back up this loan to Ahern’s partner or to prove around IR£30,000 in other expenditure from this account. Dublin businessman Tim Collins has denied that Taoiseach Bertie Ahern was joint holder of the so-called BT account from which Celia Larkin was loaned IR£30,000 without documentation to describe the loan agreement.[92] Tim Collins denied that the BT account referred to Bertie and Tim, even though he operated a joint account with Des Richardson known as the DT account[93]

Appearance at the Mahon Planning Tribunal

On 13 September 2007, Ahern commenced four days of testimony under oath at the Mahon Tribunal. On 13 September, Ahern admitted that he had not cooperated with the Mahon planning tribunal. Counsel stated that information supplied “did not encompass all of the material questions that had been asked of you” to which Ahern replied “I accept that, yes”.[94][95] On 14 September 2007, inconsistencies in Ahern’s statements to the Tribunal emerged, after he changed his story on the infamous IR£25,000 dig-outs.[96] On 21 September 2007 Ahern again changed his story and said he could not remember key events at the centre of the current controversy.[97]

Tribunal chairman Judge Alan Mahon said there were “significant gaps in the money trail provided by Mr Ahern which “would have made it impossible for the tribunal to follow the trail”.[98]

Judge Gerald Keyes accused Mr Ahern of having no recollection of buying stg£30,000 in the early 1990s.[99]

Judge Mary Faherty accused Mr Ahern of giving polar opposite accounts of why he withdrew IR£50,000 from AIB, O’Connell St in January 1995.[100]

On 24 September there were further discrepancies, memory lapses and contradictions to his testimony under oath[101] with Ahern agreeing with the assertions of the Tribunal that there are inconsistencies and contradictions in his statements compared to bank records and the testimony of his then partner Ms Larkin.
Ahern agreed with the Tribunal that; “It cannot be the case that Ms Larkin changed a sterling equivalent of £28,772.90 on that day, if that bank record is accurate, isn’t that correct?”.[102][103]
Journalist Vincent Browne has asserted that “Ahern’s numbers game just doesn’t add up“.[104]

Again on 20 and 21 December 2007, Ahern spent two further days under questioning by the Mahon tribunal about his finances in the 1990s.[105] In January 2008, it was revealed that Ahern was in discussion with the Revenue Commissioners about his liability for tax on the sums received in Manchester and on his tax clearance status as declared in 2002, before details of the Manchester payments were revealed.[106][107] Opposition leader Enda Kenny has said that, it is not acceptable to have a Taoiseach who cannot declare compliance with the tax codes.[108]

On 12 February 2008, it emerged[109] that the Mahon tribunal had not all of the information provided to it, that Ahern indicated in the Dáil, that he had provided to the tribunal. Ahern has taken a High Court action to prevent the Mahon Tribunal from addressing and questioning him on the information, that he released in the Dáil in 2006.[110]
The total value of lodgements and other transactions that have to date been queried by the Mahon tribunal in its public inquiries into the finances of the Taoiseach, Bertie Ahern, exceeds £452,800. The lodgements and transactions occurred between 1988 and 1997, although the vast bulk of the money was lodged in the period to 1995.[111]

On 4 June 2008, Ahern admitted that he knew about sterling lodgements before his secretary’s testimony,[112] but said to laughter at his Tribunal appearance on that day that those lodgements were from horse racing betting-winnings.[113]

Tax Clearance Certificate

In mid-January 2008 it emerged in the press,[114] reportedly as leaks from parties to the Mahon tribunal, that Ahern will not be in a position to present a Tax Clearance Certificate to the Dáil, as is required under Ethics’ legislation. This certificate is issued by the Revenue Commissioners, to persons who have shown themselves to be tax compliant. It is a legal requirement that this certificate be presented to a Dáil committee by 31 January 2008 by those elected to the Dáil. In the absence of this, a certificate stating that Ahern is in negotiation with the Revenue Commissioners will suffice. An inability to declare tax compliance by a prominent individual, while highly embarrassing will suffice temporarily until Revenue either issue a tax compliance certificate or refuse it.
The issue of compliance is serious and is an offence to make a false declaration.

The Standards in Public Office Bill also makes provision for tax clearance requirements for persons elected to the Oireachtas, and others. Persons elected will be required to make a statutory declaration of tax compliance, and the making of a false declaration will be an offence. They will also have to produce a tax clearance certificate. There will, therefore, be considerable policing of tax compliance of members.[115]

The Standards in Public Office Commission has been asked to investigate the Taoiseach’s declaration of tax compliance after the 2002 General Election.[116]

Ahern’s inability to furnish the tax clearance certificate has led to further calls for Ahern’s resignation. He is also the only member of the Oireachtas not to have a tax clearance certificate[108] On 14 January 2008 while on a visit to South Africa, Ahern accused Enda Kenny, leader of the opposition of telling[117] a “bare-faced lie” about Ahern’s tax situation. Ahern and Fianna Fáil’s response has not addressed the issue, but has attacked the leaking of Ahern’s tax affairs so as to attempt to enable the non-compliance issue to be ignored. Labour party leader “Mr Gilmore joined the offensive over the weekend, saying the Taoiseach was now providing at least four different versions of his personal finances and was unable to get a tax clearance certificate.”[118] As of 2010 Ahern has still not been able to provide a tax clearance certificate.[citation needed]

Ahern admitted to the Mahon Tribunal on 21 February 2008, for the first time, that he did not pay tax on substantial payments that he received when Minister for Finance in the 1990s.[119]

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