The Mahon Tribunal – AIB and O’Callahan. It wasn’t just the Politicians you know

AIB, despite their denials, was  found by the Mahon report to have known about two £10,000 payments, one each for Liam Lawlor and Colm McGrath, despite the two payments being treated as ‘expenses’ in accounts (and falsely ascribed to Tom Gilmartin by O’Callaghan).  AIB was found to have been aware that over £80,000 was put aside by O’Callaghan and Dunlop for the purpose of the vote on Quarryvale in Dublin County Council. The bank was also exposed as having set up an extraordinary arrangement with Frank Dunlop, whereby they cashed cheques for Dunlop under a false name.

AIB MUST have known about what Dunlop was up to. The bank was signing off on payments to Shefran Limited (a false cover for payments to politicians) large ,round-figure, VAT-free, invoice-free payments (the invoices were only created years later) without telling Gilmartin what they were for (and sometimes signing off payments without Gilmartin because they and O’Callaghan had a majority stake).

The AIB opened an account at Terenure for Dunlop, they actually set it up for him and cashed cheques for him under a false name – it was out of this that many of the bribes came (i.e., it was used as a slush fund). There were even instances where Gilmartin met with potential investors to fund the project that only the bank knew about – and all of a sudden Liam Lawlor found out where he was, turned up out of breath, and proceeded to put off the investors’ interest by talking of west Dublin as ‘mad dog country’ and ‘bandit country’.

Owen O’Callaghan paid corrupt payments of £10,000 each to Liam Lawlor and to Colm McGrath.

Those payments were subsequently written up in his company accounts as ‘expenses’, with a handwritten not beside them saying he’d explain this on Friday’ when he met AIB.   AIB claims he didn’t tell them the true purpose of the payments. The Tribunal utterly rejected AIB’s claim that they didn’t know what the payments were for.

O’Callaghan’s company charged those two payments to the company in which they had a share with the AIB and Tom Gilmartin. In this respect, they charged the payments to Gilmartin, presenting them in the accounts as if they were Gilmartin’s expenses. They were not, however, put to Gilmartin himself. Gilmartin never signed off on them, nor could he have done because he was never made aware of them. Both AIB and O’Callaghan admitted that Gilmartin (a) didn’t know about them, and (b) would have refused because they knew his hostility towards the idea of payments to politicians.

The Tribunal found that O’Callaghan, his solicitor John Deane, and AIB all knew what the payments were for, deliberately didn’t tell the auditors of the Quarryvale development company, Barkhill, and kept it secret from Gilmartin deliberately. And then had Gilmartin pay for it, in the full knowledge that he would never have assented to it, and without ever telling him that the money wasn’t owed by him. They had him unknowingly pay them back for their corruption by deceiving him (and the auditors).

AIB were thus a party, with O’Callaghan, to fraud and corruption.

In 1992, the relationship between AIB and Gilmartin (and between O’Callaghan) got worse – Gilmartin became aware of Shefran Limited and started demanding answers (he was suspicious, but couldn’t prove that Dunlop was behind it). AIB wouldn’t tell him who or what Shefran was for – large round-figure VAT-free sums were going to it from Barkhill Limited, and Gilmartin wanted to know why. Every time he asked he was told nothing.

In December 1992, around the time of yet another council vote on Quarryvale, Mary Basquille of AIB had a telephone conversation with Tom Gilmartin in which he threatened to go to the press with his complaints. Instead of the usually assiduous note-taking of such conversations by AIB, no note at all was prepared or produced to the Tribunal. The Tribunal utterly rejected her evidence that she didn’t have time write a note. Gilmartin was more than likely complaining about Dunlop and suspected corruption, and the AIB deliberately made no written notes of it.

A meeting was then arranged with Gilmartin in London, on the day of the vote, which Gilmartin said was designed to keep him occupied rather than have him wreck the vote. They both claimed he turned up late, whereas he was quite clear that one turned up and the other deliberately didn’t – then when he tried to stop the council voting by phone, the council’s phones were being manned by Dunlop, John Deane (O’Callaghan’s solicitor) and Sean Gilbride (a councillor in O’Callaghan’s pocket)

No notes or memos were prepared before, during, or after this meeting. The Tribunal asked the AIB people if Gilmartin had complained about his suspicions that politicians were being paid and money taken out of Barkhill Limited to pay them via Dunlop and Shefran Limited. They said they didn’t recall.

The Tribunal rejected AIB’s evidence – there was a deliberate decision taken not to leave any written trace of Gilmartin’s complaints about what he suspected to be corrupt payments.

The AIB was extremely worried about what Tom Gilmartin would say about Dunlop and Shefran following publication of Frank McDonald’s 1993 article on planning corruption. The bank drew up a memo where they discussed the situation and asked ‘How do we deal with the Gilmartin factor’. When the bank spoke to him on the phone he repeated his complaints (which they described as ‘irrational’).

The AIB claimed that they never spoke to O’Callaghan about the issue, despite their memo showing them to be very nervous and wondering if any of the public controversy about alleged corruption would have implications for Quarryvale. Needless to say, the Tribunal said that this idea that they never raised the issue with O’Callaghan was ‘simply not credible’.

Lies on oath, fraud, criminality, collusion in corruption. Another day at the office at AIB…

Some more on AIB…

John Aherne of the AIB set up an account for Frank Dunlop at a branch that Dunlop never visited and made all the arrangements for Dunlop’s money to be paid there to avoid it showing up in his primary account or at his normal bank branch. Dunlop explained it as follows…


‘…AIB were able to look after clients who had large sums of money and they did not want to appear in their account in their bank or in another account in their bank. And he (Mr. Aherne) suggested that he would contact… the Manager in Rathfarnham, in a place called Rathfarnham, and open an account.’

Dunlop said that he had been advised by Mr. Aherne that…


“it would not be right or advisable to have large sums of money going through my account in his own, in that branch.”

This was the slush fund account (the so-called ‘war chest’) into which hundreds of thousands of pouds flowed, and from which bribes were paid to politicians big and small, named and as-yet un-named…

All Dunlop’s movements of money were done at College Street AIB by John Aherne, Dunlop never set foot in Rathfarnham.

Aherne initially suggested that he first heard of Dunlop’s company Shefran Limited in 1992. He then admitted that he had known about Shefran for two years prior to that, and was cashing cheques for that entity during that period despite Shefran not having an account.

Aherne cashed large cheques for Dunlop between 1990 and 1993. He cashed cheques for Dunlop that were not made out to Dunlop, nor to Frank Dunlop and Associates, nor to Shefran. From 1989 he was cashing cheques for Dunlop that were made by National Toll Roads on foot of invoices under the name of ‘Barry McCarthy’, Shefran Ltd, and Shefran (Jersey) Ltd. On a number of occasions Dunlop endorsed the cheques with the name of ‘Barry McCarthy’, in the full knowledge of John Aherne.

Aherne commented to the Tribunal ‘Okay, it was irregular.’ He could not recall if he had associated at the time the cash withdrawals of 25K and 35K in June 1991 by Dunlop with the local election campaign. ‘It may well have been but I can’t recall.’ Nor could he recall if he had associated the 55K cash withdrawal by Dunlop in November 1992 with the general election then called. p.2337-2340

What will happen in relation to AIB and O’Callaghan?

I’m not going to hold my breath – I foresee court challenges and smokescreens galore, and eventually the whole thing being forgotten. Already O’Callaghan is getting free PR pieces like the Front page of Friday’s Examiner (no mention of Dunlop, the bribes, anything – because, of course, he’s extremely wealthy and money talks – if he were some kid who stole a purse he’d get much more damning coverage)…

Toxic Avenger 2 April 2012

One Response

  1. Far too little attention in my opinion has been given to O’Callaghan’s career. As for the AIB – what action, if any, have they taken in relation to the misconduct reported by Mahon? We are still having to place our faith in the same institutions, now dealing with billions of euros on behalf of the public.

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