Haughey lawyers admit pounds 1.3m payment

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The Independent Online
Lawyers for Charles Haughey yesterday admitted for the first time that pounds 1.3m from supermarket chief Ben Dunne did "in all probability" reach the then Irish premier between 1987 and 1991.

The former Taioseach's legal counsel, Eoin McGonigal, told the payments- to-politicians tribunal at Dublin Castle that evidence from the former Fianna Fail party leader would show that cheques probably did reach Dublin bank accounts controlled on his behalf.

This is the first time Mr Haughey's side has indicated he did benefit from alleged gifts detailed earlier to the tribunal by Mr Dunne. Until now, Mr Haughey in correspondence had denied knowledge of the payments.

But Mr McGonigal said the evidence would also show the politician did not know the money came from Mr Dunne.

Mr Haughey has now agreed to testify to the tribunal, probably later this month, after being subpoenaed.

Mr McGonigal said documents would also contest the now-celebrated claim by Mr Dunne that he dropped in for tea with a depressed-looking Mr Haughey at the latter's house in late 1991 and gave him three bank drafts worth pounds 210,000 with the words, "Here's something for yourself," to which Mr Haughey had reportedly replied "Thanks, big fella."

The tribunal, also heard between pounds 30m and pounds 40m passed through secret numbered sterling and Deutschmark accounts in Guinness Mahon bank in Dublin, though it was not suggested the bulk of this went to the politician.

Funds taken from these accounts were used to pay Mr Haughey's living expenses and to secure a loan to the helicopter firm controlled by Mr Haughey's son Ciaran.

Counsel for the tribunal, Denis McCullough, revealed a critical breakthrough in the tribunal's bank investigations. He confirmed that pounds 105,000 of a pounds 182,000 sterling cheque from Dunnes Stores Bangor account in Northern Ireland had definitely gone via a London account to the ACC Bank in Dublin to pay off loans to Mr Haughey.

The tribunal resumed its hearings yesterday after adjourning for last month's general election.

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