Goodman 'was favoured by Haughey' for export credits

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LARRY Goodman fraudulently sought millions in Irish state export insurance for beef that did not originate in Ireland, and received preferential treatment from the then Prime Minister to secure such cover, Dublin's Industry Minister Des O'Malley has said.

Testifying before the year- old tribunal of inquiry into the beef industry last week, Mr O'Malley put the coalition led by Albert Reynolds, who is linked to the row, under intense pressure. Mr O'Malley did not, however, directly accuse ministers of fraud. Had he done so, he would have been sacked, prompting an almost certain election, as he leads the Progressive Democrat (PD) junior coalition party.

The tribunal was set up after allegations last year in the Dail that EC subsidies had been systematically abused, tax evaded, and stored EC intervention beef reboxed and sold as new by Goodman International, the biggest meat group in Europe.

The export credit insurance (ECI) scheme was reinstated and expanded under the 1987- 89 minority Fianna Fail government, after private meetings between Mr Goodman and top ministers.

Mr O'Malley was pressed by Mr Goodman's lawyers to justify his claims of preferential treatment. He cited meetings from 1987 held with the Prime Minister, Charles Haughey, and Albert Reynolds, then industry minister, 'at very short notice'. Mr O'Malley said one led to Mr Goodman 'on the spot' securing cover worth dollars 134.5m, which was 'ten times greater than any individual ECI contract that the state had ever written up to then'.

These allocations meant 43 per cent of all state cover was allocated for one product, beef, for one country - Iraq - where the dominant of two Irish exporters was Goodman.

Mr O'Malley called the difference between the IR pounds 4m of ECI cover Mr Goodman received between 1982 and 1986 and the IR pounds 170m offered him under Fianna Fail in the two subsequent years 'mind- boggling'.

'I'm not saying ministers were part of the fraud, but there was fraud involved in covering large amounts of non- Irish beef in insurance policies where there were specific declarations made that everything exported under the contract was Irish,' Mr O'Malley said.

(Photograph omitted)