Wall: I gave Ahern £28,000 in suitcase
Manchester based businessman Michael Wall today confirmed to the Mahon Tribunal that he gave Taoiseach Bertie Ahern a briefcase stuffed with about stg£28,000 cash at his Dublin constituency office in 1994.
Making his first appearance before the long-running public inquiry, Co Galway-born Michael Wall claimed the money was intended to refurbish a Dublin house he planned to let to Mr Ahern.
He admitted neither he nor Mr Ahern counted the cash nor did he ask for a receipt from the politician.
He told the tribunal he kept the briefcase in a wardrobe in his hotel bedroom the previous night.
Mr Wall, who ran a coach transport business in Manchester, said he met Mr Ahern three or four times a year at Irish tourism functions and regarded him as a close friend.
He was also friendly with Mr Ahern’s then partner Celia Larkin.
Ms Larkin is due to appear as a witness at the planning corruption inquiry tomorrow and Mr Ahern is scheduled to give evidence on Thursday and Friday.
Mr Wall today told the tribunal that he began thinking about opening a coach business in Dublin in the early 1990s and started looking around for a house in the city.
He said he chatted to Mr Ahern a few times about buying a property which the politician would then rent from him.
He later paid a deposit on a house off Griffith Avenue in Drumcondra and subsequently bought it for £138,000 Irish punts.
He told the inquiry that he travelled to Dublin in December 1994 for a political fundraiser and brought a black briefcase with £30,000 cash – of mostly £20 sterling notes.
The briefcase also included about £2,000 worth of Irish punts which he was using as spending money for him, his wife and a travelling party of eight people.
He said he drove to Mr Ahern’s St Luke’s constituency office in Drumcondra and gave the briefcase to him in his office.
“I told him I brought a little money and was it ok if he took charge of it and he said ’ok’.”
He recalled Ms Larkin also “popped in and out” of the room during their conversation.
Tribunal counsel Henry Murphy asked about their reaction to the cash handover: “Were they surprised, were they agog? Were they appreciative?”
“There was no particular reaction whatsoever,” replied Mr Wall.
Mr Murphy queried the urgency in bringing the cash to Mr Ahern at that time because the sale of the house had not yet been finalised.
The lawyer said it later transpired that the money was not spent until May or June of the following year.
“I had the money available. I dealt in cash all the time. I would deal in £30,000-40,000 a week in cash,” Mr Wall replied.
Micheal Wall first became embroiled in the controversies surrounding the Taoiseach’s financial affairs last year.
But he has not spoken publicly about his association with Mr Ahern until today’s Mahon Tribunal.
Born in Leenane, Co Galway in 1942, he later emigrated to Manchester in 1959 and found work as a joiner in the building trade.
He set up his own coach transport business in 1968 and went on to employ up to 50 people, mostly drivers.
However the father of four was involved in a serious accident in 1995 and sold his business two years later.
The Tribunal also heard he became involved in property development and had property interests in Manchester and the west of Ireland.