Where did Lawlor get the extra £2.6 million?
BY ROBBIE MacGABHANN
There was a man whom we all knew, who had so many bank accounts he didn't know what to do. Believe it or not, this is not a fairytale, but the life of former Fianna Fáil TD Liam Lawlor.
Last week, Lawlor made yet another of his acrimonious appearances at the Flood Tribunal. After his first day of evidence Lawlor was told by the tribunal chairperson to go home and think very carefully about his answers.
At the end of the week Justice Flood said it was clear that Lawlor had not complied with the terms of reference of the Tribunal or the Supreme Court judgement that compelled him to attend the Tribunal this week.
We now move back to the High Court to see if it thinks that Lawlor has breached the court's order compelling him not only to attend the Tribunal but also to produce documentation sought about companies he had an interest in and bank accounts under his control.
Lawlor repeated during his evidence that he felt the scope of the questioning was either an attempt to entrap him or to widen the Tribunal enquiries outside the issue of planning to his total business interests.
All of that apart, Lawlor's testimony and the Tribunal's discoveries to date about his business affairs make compelling reading.
At the heart of the Tribunal's interest in Lawlor is that over £4.6 million was lodged to the 18 bank accounts he had from 1983 to date. During this time his Leinster House income and expenses totalled only £515,000. Of the remaining £4.1 million, Lawlor can account for another £1.5 million. That still leaves £2.5 million unaccounted for.
So how did Liam Lawlor accumulate all this money? Well, it seems that when he was not working legislating etc, he was opening companies and offering consultancy services.
One such consultancy company was called Demographic Strategic Consultants. Since September 1998 this company has been paying Liam Lawlor about £1,000 a month. Another company Economic Reports was found to have £161,000 lodged in the company bank accounts.
One venture that soaked up a lot of money was Advanced Proteins. This was set up in 1984 to manufacture proteins. It never traded but had £900,000 lodged in company accounts, £300,000 of which came from Larry Goodman. According to Lawlor the money was part of an ongoing feasibility study into setting up a manufacturing facility in Ireland.
other Lawlor company called Industrial Consultants was set up to provide advice on cold storage in Nigeria. It was through this company that fake invoices were issued to National Toll Roads for £74,000 in political donations to Lawlor.
Lawlor companies had business in not only Nigeria but also Britain, Argentina and the Czech Republic. It was from companies in the Czech Republic that in 1995 Lawlor received loans of £600,000, £30,000 of which has been paid back to date.
When it was put to Lawlor that this was strange to get such a substantial loan, with no schedule of payments, no rate of interest and no correspondence from the lender, Lawlor said, that he had a profit sharing agreement with the Longwater Investment, the company that offered up the £600,000 no questions asked. Lawlor expected some of their projects to become profitable shortly.
However, the most compelling aspect of the life of the man with 18 bank accounts was when he received a cheque from self-styled PR consultant Frank Dunlop. The invoices for this cheque went through a company called Long Associates, with an address in ``downtown London'' according to Lawlor.
So, to which of the 18 bank accounts did Lawlor lodge the money? None. Liam brought the £38,000 cheque to Sarsfield's pub in Inchicore, where the owner Pat Murphy cashed it for him, in installments.
Lawlor got the money in different amounts of between £5,000 and £10,000 from Murphy when he was ``out walking the land, checking the cattle''.
This part of Lawlor's testimony brought laughter from the public gallery at the Tribunal. However there is nothing funny about the millions disclosed so far of Lawlor's wealth. Lawlor argues that this investigation into his private financial life is inappropriate and not within the remit of the Tribunal. How many members of the general public, especially those living in his constituency, would agree?