Tax settlement Irish names in HSBC bank’s secret files found
International clients include those involved in arms trade and blood diamonds
A team of journalists from 45 countries has unearthed secret bank accounts maintained for criminals, traffickers, tax dodgers, politicians and celebrities.
A huge cache of secret files from the Swiss branch of one of the world’s largest banks includes Irish people who made tax settlements with the Revenue Commissioners for more than €4.5 million. Other clients include arms dealers who sold munitions to African child soldiers, traffickers in blood diamonds, and associates of third world dictators.
The files, which cover accounts with HSBC Private Bank inGeneva holding more than $100 billion, have led to investigations around the globe resulting in massive tax settlements. They were given to the Revenue Commissioners by the French authorities in June 2010.
Since 2010, the information has led to 20 tax settlements here for a total of more than €4.5 million, and to three successful prosecutions for tax offences, with a fourth case pending.
However in contrast to the authorities inFrance, Belgium and Argentina, the Revenue Commissioners decided that there was not enough evidence in the files to justify a case being taken against HSBC Private Bank, Geneva, on charges of aiding and abetting tax evasion.
There is nothing illegal about having a Swiss bank account and Irish clients on the list include a number of well-know business people and Dublin-based investment funds. But there are also Irish people who made confidential settlements with the Revenue as part of a scheme targetting offshore deposits in 2004 and others who made settlements since the data came into the possession of the Revenue Commissioners.
The files were obtained by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) in Washington DC, via the French newspaper, Le Monde. The Irish Times is working in partnership with 45 other media organisations and the ICIJ, in producing reports based on the files.
London-listed HSBC, which reports multi-billion euro profits every quarter, has issued a lengthy statement to The Irish Times and the other media groups involved in the Swiss Leaks project, admitting that standards were not as they should have been in HSBC Geneva, but claiming that new management is working to improve the culture in the Swiss bank.
It said an “intensive de-risking exercise” has seen deposits fall almost by half, to $68 billion at the end of last year, from $118.4 billion in 2007.
The bank files were copied by a former employee, Hervé Falciani, during 2006 and 2007, and were seized during a raid by the French police on his father’s home in 2009. Mr Falciani was charged late last year inSwitzerland with industrial espionage and violating bank secrecy and the Attorney General’s office there said it was prepared to try him in absentia.
As well as names, addresses, balances and other information, the files also contain notes of contacts with bank customers. In the case of Irish businessman John Cashell (59), of Cashell Radley Business Systems,Tralee, Co Kerry, a note on his file records how he called the bank from Spain in 2005 to express his concerns about the European Savings Directive (ESD), which was introduced that year. The directive provides for the exchange of banking information between EU member states, and for the application of a withholding tax on interest payments to EU citizens by banks in Switzerland.
“Once again his pre-occupation is with the risk of disclosure to the Irish authorities,” the note said. “Once again I have endeavoured to reassure him that there is no risk of that happening. He mentioned that there had been some high profile cases in Ireland recently that had put everyone on edge.”
Mr Cashell pleaded guilty to three counts of filing incorrect income tax returns in the Circuit Court, Tralee, last year, and was fined €25,000. He has also made a €102,000 tax settlement, of which €29,000 was tax and the rest interest and penalties. He declined to comment when contacted.
Another former HSBC Geneva account holder, Galway economist Dr Michael Cuddy (72), said that a bank official suggested to him at one stage that he put his money into an offshore trust. He said he never took up the suggestion. The European Commission last year amended the ESD to prevent people using offshore entities to circumvent the objectives of the directive.
French economist Thomas Piketty, author of Capital in the Twenty-First Century, told the ICIJ that the offshore industry is a major threat to democratic institutions and the social contract.
“Financial opacity is one of the key drivers of rising global inequality. It allows a large fraction of top income and top wealth groups to pay negligible tax rates, while the rest of us pay large taxes in order to finance the public goods and services… that are indispensable for the development process.”
Figures given to The Irish Times by the Revenue show that the amount of money Irish citizens have on deposit in Switzerland is much greater than is the case with other secretive locations such as Jersey, Monaco, or Luxembourg.
The Paul Murphy arrest designed to damage the water charge campaign
TD and three others released after questioning over blockade of Tánaiste’s car
Paul Murphy released after questioning over blockade of Tánaiste’s car. The TD ‘stands over’ taking part in Jobstown protest; Four men released without charge
Socialist Party TD Paul Murphy said his arrest today was designed to “damage the anti-water charges movement”.
He was released from Terenure Garda station in Dublin without charge this afternoon following an almost nine-hour stay in police custody.
His arrest at 7am this morning came as part of a broader Garda sweep which saw three other men arrested in an investigation into a protest in Jobstown last November which resulted in Tánaiste Joan Burton being trapped in her car for over two hours.
The other three men, including Anti Austerity Alliance (AAA) councillors Mick Murphy and Kieran Mahon, were released from stations in Tallaght and Rathfarnham earlier this afternoon
However, Mr Murphy had his period of detention extended beyond the initial six hours before he was released shortly after 3.30pm.
“[It] was an exercise in pure political policing, designed to damage the anti-water charges movement, targeting the AAA in particular. There is no basis for these charges, so let them charge us. Let’s have a court case, let’s have a jury, because we’re not guilty,” the Dublin South-West TD said.
He said six police arrived at the Dáil deputy’s home at 6.55am before taking him out of the premises to Terenure Garda station, where he was questioned for a period of four hours.
Allegations brought against him included false imprisonment of the Labour Party leader and a file has been sent to the Director of Public Prosecutions.
“It’s complete nonsense the idea that we’re responsible for the false imprisonment of anybody. It’s disgusting in the context that police resources are really needed for people, as opposed to just being used as a political plaything of some establishment politician,” said Mr Murphy, who described the allegations as “trumped up”.
“What’s here is quite a grievous attack on people’s democratic right to protest, including things like sit down protests. I absolutely stand over participating in a sit down protest in Jobstown.
“They did call other people in for questioning and we knew that they were questioning everybody, and we knew that a line of questioning for all the people they questioned was trying to pin me as being the organiser of the protest, which is not true,” he said.
Speaking earlier today upon his release from Tallaght Garda station, Cllr Mahon agreed with the TD’s view that the arrests and questioning were aimed at pinpointing Mr Murphy as the leader of the November 15th protest.
“We were aware that there was a huge team looking at evidence of what had gone on in Jobstown, particularly with the view of attacking Paul Murphy over the last few months and attacking the AAA, and using that as a way to demonise the wider protests going on across the State at the moment,” he said.
“If you look at the four people arrested today, it indicates that there’s an element of political policing around it,” he said.
Mr Murphy said the line of questioning adopted by gardaí revolved around interviews he had given on national radio in the aftermath of the incident, including a video taken at a separate protest which purports to show the Socialist politician saying that he was “elected to break the law”.
He was joined on his release by AAA councillors Mr Murphy and Mr Mahon, as well as Socialist Party leader Joe Higgins.
“Not once in my experience has something like this happened where an incident room has been set up, gardaí have been dedicated to investigate a peaceful protest. This is unprecedented in the history of policing, and in the history of political protest in this country,” said Mr Higgins.
Around 100 people protested against the arrest outside Tallaght Garda station. The four men were arrested under Section 4 of the Criminal Justice Act.
Videos taken on the day appear to show people pushing against the Minister for Social Protection’s car while others engaged in confrontations with gardaí at the scene.
One video appears to show Ms Burton being struck with a water balloon, while members of her team alleged they had been “badly kicked and beaten” during the incident.
Ms Burton later described the demonstration which Mr Murphy maintained was a peaceful exercise as an attack on democracy which was indicative of the growth of a “fascist” movement within Irish politics.
Mr Murphy was an MEP between 2011 and 2014 and won a seat in the Dublin South-West byelection last October.
He has been a leading figure in anti-water charges demonstrations over recent months.
Mr Murphy was one of six people arrested in 2013 when a group of anti-household charge campaigners forced entry to South Dublin County Council offices as part of co-ordinated national protests.
Report sheds light on digital addiction among Irish children
‘Net Children Go Mobile’ report reveals one in five have encountered distressing content
Some 58% of those aged 15-16 reported using the internet excessively.
A major report published today on internet use among Irish children shows that, while they are rapidly developing their online skills, a higher proportion are reporting seeing distressing content when using laptops, tablets and smartphones.
One in five nine to 16-year-olds said they had accessed harmful or distressing content, double the rate in 2011.
In the 15-16 age bracket, the proportion saying they had seen something they wished they hadn’t – such as discriminatory messages, self-harm sites or forums discussing drug usage – was as high as 37 per cent.
The Net Children Go Mobile 2015 report, carried out through interviews with a nationally representative sample of 500 children by researchers at Dublin Institute of Technology, found just under half (46 per cent) had access to the internet from their bedrooms. And 14 per cent of this nine to 16-year-old cohort said they went online “a lot” after 9pm.
Dr Brian O’Neill, co-author of the report, says this incessant access to digital devices raises concerns about online bullying and access to harmful content.
“Young people are always online, always connected and always available with no escape.”
However, he believes parents must be careful not to lecture children about internet use. “Children often pick up these habits from parents. Digital use is a matter for everybody.”
The report found 60 per cent of children believe they know more about the internet than their parents, with young girls claiming a more critical understanding than boys.
Their online skills include bookmarking websites, deleting website records, changing privacy settings and blocking messages from strangers.
Not surprisingly, young people are becoming more dependent on social networking sites for communicating with their peers.
Nearly 40 per cent of those aged 11-12 admitted setting up a profile despite bans across most sites on users under 13 signing up.
This number has dropped since 2011, when 51 per cent of this age group were reportedly signing up to sites with phony accounts.
In the latest report, nine out of 10 in the 15-16 age bracket said they had a social networking profile, while 58 per cent reported using the internet excessively.
A 16-year-old boy interviewed during the research confessed: “With the internet connected constantly you’re never offline . . . Like, you always log Facebook on your phone, unless you log out . . . but it’s kind of a hassle to log in and log out. But even if you sit in class; you can have 10 seconds and check your newsfeed.”
Dr O’Neill blames peer pressure for the constant need to stay connected and worries it could lead to an increase in online bullying.
“The internet is a large, vast, unregulated space. There can be violent content, scary content, sexual content that disturbs them.”
Girls seem to be most vulnerable to online bullying, with 26 per cent reporting abuse compared with 17 per cent of boys.
The rate of reported online bullying increased from 22 per cent in 2011 to 23 per cent in 2014, despite claims from sites such as Facebook and Ask.fm of increased regulation and moderation.
The online abuse
A 13-year-old girl interviewed for the study spoke of the abuse she suffered online. “I cried, it was an old friend, who was jealous of me that because I went to this new school and she saw I have more friends and so, she was very jealous, she said bad things about me like I was ugly and I wasn’t spending much time with her, and I spend more time with other new friends not with her.”
Reports of exposure to sexual images have risen from 17 per cent in 2011 to 21 per cent, with children encountering hate and discriminatory messages, anorexic or bulimic content, self-harm sites and sites discussing suicide.
“Stranger danger” is another issue for many children when they are exploring the web.
“This is a very extreme and rare form of danger in terms of predatory contact,” says Dr O’Neill. “The internet has access on a global stage to lots of potentially unsavoury individuals.”
However, he says perceptions of internet safety in Ireland are changing, with parents becoming more proactive and engaging with their children’s internet use.
Webwise.ie educates and promotes dialogue between children, teachers and parents on safe and appropriate use of the internet.
Drinking red wine is great for Burning Fat and also getting drunk
My dear friend, of booze wrap us up together in your tender, alcoholic bosom and never let us go.
Everyone knows that adage about a glass of red wine every week being good for your heart. Considering how we drink, our cardiovascular systems will outlast that Wall-E bot that NASA sent to Mars.
And yes, we know that resveratrol might be fantastic for preserving all of our memories of drunkenly trying to sing Drake songs to our cats. Red wine also has a way of turning us into human Cathy comics.
Now, there’s even better news for winos: Red wine may help you to stop packing on fat. If the Real Housewives of the world said “huzzah,” they’d be saying it right about now.
Truth be told, it really has nothing to do with wine itself. You could just as easily eat some Muscadine grapes or drink their juice to see a similar effect, according to research recently published in The Wine’s luscious, comforting alcohol is just a side benefit.
The study researchers were particularly interested in ellagic acid, a compound found in Muscadine grapes that slowed the growth of existing fat cells and the creation of new ones. It also helped to boost the metabolism of fatty acids in liver cells, which may help to improve liver function in people who are overweight.
But one of the researchers in the study, biochemist and molecular biologist Dr. Neil Shay of Oregon State University, cautioned that ellagic acid isn’t a weight-loss cure. “We didn’t find, and we didn’t expect to, that these compounds would improve body weight,” he said in a press release.
Researchers fed one group of mice a diet of typical “mouse chow,” containing 10 percent fat. Another group was fed a diet of 60 percent fat. Shay called the high-fat diet mice “a good model for the sedentary person who eats too much snack food and doesn’t get enough exercise.”
The mouse groups were divvied up yet again, with some receiving an extract from muscadine grapes equivalent to a daily cup and a half of grapes for a human. After ten weeks, the high-fat diet mice who weren’t given the extract developed fatty liver disease and diabetic symptoms. But the ones who did get the extract accumulated less fat in their livers, and had lower blood sugar than their unluckier counterparts.
The takeaway is that ellagic acid may act on hormone receptors that trigger the metabolism of dietary fat and glucose in the same way as some medications. A modified diet, therefore, could help in steering the body’s biochemistry in the right direction.
“We are trying to validate the specific contributions of certain foods for health benefits,” Shay said. “If you’re out food shopping, and if you know a certain kind of fruit is good for a health condition you have, wouldn’t you want to buy that fruit?”
A new solar telescope will allow us to see the sun in spectacular detail
Researchers at eight different UK universities are set to build the world’s biggest solar telescope, which will allow us to see unprecedented detail on the surface of the sun.
It is part of a consortium of eight UK universities and businesses to build the cameras for the 344 million US dollars (£226m) super-telescope, which will be situated on a mountain in Maui, Hawaii.
The consortium of UK institutes involved in the telescope project is led by Queen’s University Belfast and includes Armagh Observatory, Northumbria University, University College London, and the Universities of Glasgow, Sheffield, St Andrews and Warwick.
The Sun unleashing a medium-sized solar flare, a minor radiation storm and a spectacular coronal mass ejection.
The Daniel K Inouye Solar Telescope (DKist) will be launched in 2019 and is being constructed by the US National Solar Observatory. It will allow us to see distant planets in new detail – the equivalent of being able to examine a £1 coin from 100 kilometres away, scientists behind the project said.
Professor Mihalis Mathioudakis said: “DKist will be a revolutionary instrument for ground-based solar physics, which is a growth area in the UK. It will be in a position to explore key questions regarding solar magnetic field generation and dissipation, solar variability, atmospheric structure and dynamics.
“Our consortium will deliver key equipment that will allow DKist to achieve these scientific goals and it’s another example of how Queen’s research impacts on society, both locally and internationally.”
Queen’s University Belfast is leading the project.
It is hoped that DKist will address fundamental questions at the core of contemporary solar physics.
The academic added: “The sun is the most important astronomical object for humankind with solar activity driving space weather and having profound effects on global climate and technology-based communications.
“To understand solar activity we need to observe and model the physical processes in the solar atmosphere on their intrinsic spatial and temporal scales so that, among other questions, we can reliably forecast this activity in space.”
The consortium will oversee the development and delivery of the cameras, and take the lead in supporting the UK solar physics community in their use of the telescope.