Ex-Irish leader Ahern took secret payments, judges say
Tribunal stops short of finding Ahern guilty of corruption, because he gave no favors
Former Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern received $276,000 in secret payments while in office and repeatedly told lies about this under oath, a mammoth fact-finding investigation ruled Thursday in a long-awaited verdict.
The three judges of the Mahon tribunal stopped short of finding Ahern guilty of corruption, because they found no evidence that Ahern gave favors to any of his donors of cash when he was finance minister in the 1990s.
They did find two other former lawmakers in Ahern's Fianna Fail party, including former cabinet minister and European Union commissioner Padraig Flynn, guilty of corrupt acts.
Ahern, whose often bizarre and implausible 2007 testimony enraptured the nation, denied doing anything wrong but resigned from office in 2008 after 11 years in power. He offered no response to Thursday's findings.
Interest in the judges' final 3,211-page report — the product of a 15-year investigation expected to cost taxpayers more than $260 million — was so great that the investigators' web site repeatedly crashed.
"Much of the explanation provided by Mr. Ahern as to the source of the substantial funds identified and inquired into in the course of the tribunal's public hearings was deemed by the tribunal to be untrue," the judges found.
They accused Ahern's government, which founded the original fact-finding tribunal in 1997, of launching a sustained attack on their work once the target of their investigation turned to Ahern himself.
During his 15 days of testimony in 2007, Ahern admitted keeping most of the money in personal safes, failing to keep a personal bank account during much of the time under investigation, and failing to pay tax on any of it until the investigators uncovered its existence.