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The Great Irish Bank Robbery

Posted on: November 26th, 2007 1 Comment

Someone should write a thesis about Jim Flavin’s antics. His staggering survival act deserves a doctorate. But he is unlikely to cling on for much longer. No one would write it better than Liam Collins, my colleague in the Sunday Independent. Liam has just penned a humdinger about banking. The title: “The Great Irish Bank Robbery.” The robbers are, of course, the banks. Liam tells the story of how some of the top characters in Irish banking never noticed massive tax evasion on their watch. Half the nation was on the fiddle and the directors of the banks concerned were apparently sleepwalking.

Collins has a racy style. He tells us how Ireland‘s banks broke the law, fooled the Revenue Commissioners, tried to bluff an Oireachtas Committee and then coughed up €173m of shareholders’ money to the taxman.

No one has ever been brought to book for the great Irish banking scam on the Exchequer. Small offenders who opened non-resident accounts were coldly prosecuted. Fat bankers who encouraged them, walked away scot-free. Collins concentrates on the bankers, not the banks. He tells a great yarn of how Ireland‘s corporate super-insiders went into denial and then claimed a tax “amnesty.”

The author was almost singlehandedly responsible for Jim Mitchell’s Public Accounts Committee, which shone the light on some of the darkest practices in Irish corporate life. Most remarkable outcome of all, following Mitchell’s probe, is the whereabouts of some of the chief players today. Tom Mulcahy went on to be chairman of Aer Lingus. Gerry Scanlan remained on the board of publicly-quoted Fyffes for many years.

No wonder Jim Flavin sees no need to take an early bath.