PracticeConsultingInquiry hits obstacles

Inquiry hits obstacles

A struggle for access to client files is hampering an investigation into Irish ICA members. Anthony Garvey reports.

The Irish ICA has admitted its investigation into possible misconductnto Irish ICA members. by members involved in the ‘Haughey affair’ may not be completed until early summer.

A committee of inquiry is examining the role of members named in a recent tribunal report on secret payments to politicians.

The payments, made through offshore accounts by Ben Dunne, the former millionaire boss of the Dunnes Stores supermarket chain, included #1.3m to former Irish Prime Minister Charles Haughey and substantial amounts to Michael Lowry, a former government minister who resigned when they became public. None of the money was declared for tax purposes.

The institute’s investigation began in October, shortly after the tribunal report was published. But a spokesman said it was ‘moving at a much slower pace than expected’.

The committee has struggled to access certain files because of concerns by some accountancy firms about client confidentiality. Oliver Freaney & Co, one of the firms named in the tribunal report, had refused access to audit files three times, citing legal advice on client confidentiality.

However, the institute insisted all member firms must co-operate with the investigation.

It is understood the committee, headed by Mr Justice Blayney, has now begun oral hearings, with five members being called before it for questioning.

One of those named in the tribunal report was Noel Fox, a partner in Oliver Freaney & Co and also a Dunnes Stores trustee. Other accountants from the firm were also named, as were some from Deloitte & Touche.

The hearings focus on members’ roles in areas where the tribunal uncovered tax evasion and conflicts of interest.

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