March 22, 2012 / 2:10 PM / 6 years ago

Former Irish PM Ahern lied over finances-inquiry

* Corruption tribunal says account of former PM untrue

* Initial evidence had forced Ahern to resign in 2008

* Policies under Ahern helped foster financial crisis

By Lorraine Turner and Conor Humphries

DUBLIN, March 22 (Reuters) - Former Irish Primer Minister Bertie Ahern lied about the source of money paid into bank accounts connected to him, an inquiry concluded on Thursday in a long-awaited report into the dealings of one of the architects of Ireland’s ill-fated economic boom.

The verdict comes four years after the economy collapsed under the strain of a decade-long housing and banking boom, cultivated by Ahern and his Fianna Fail party, and a year after the party was thrown from power by an angry electorate.

Ahern, once one of Europe’s longest serving premiers, said in a statement that he was reviewing the findings and would make further comment in due course.

The government said it would refer the report, which described the actions of two of Ahern’s Fianna Fail colleagues as corrupt, to the police and the director of public prosecutions.

Ahern resigned in May 2008 after 11 years in charge following earlier disclosures from the judicial tribunal that tarnished achievements such as helping to reach a peace agreement in Northern Ireland.

He left his successor Brian Cowen to tackle the country’s economic problems which forced the country to seek an 85 billion euro IMF/EU bailout.

The Mahon Tribunal -- set up in 1997 to investigate the relationships between politicians and property developers after builders made vast profits on land re-zoned as commercial -- said it rejected important aspects of Ahern’s evidence.

“Much of the explanation provided by Mr Ahern as to the source of the substantial funds identified and inquired into in the course of the tribunal’s public hearings was deemed by the tribunal to be untrue,” the tribunal report said.

Ahern failed to account for over 165,000 Irish pounds (210,000 euros) lodged in bank accounts, according to the long-awaited report which ran to over 3,000 pages.

“In the course of its inquiry into Mr Ahern’s personal finances the Tribunal was satisfied that Mr Ahern did not truthfully account for the origins of specific cash lodgments,” it said.

The report stopped short of finding Ahern guilty of corruption.

The former leader was investigated by the anti-graft tribunal over allegations that he accepted money from a developer in return for favours, a charge he rejected, saying his finances were complex but not improper during the turmoil that followed the breakdown of his marriage in the 1990s.

In his last days as prime minister, he was repeatedly called back by the tribunal to answer questions over payments he received from friends and businessmen a decade earlier when he did not have a bank account despite being finance minister.

Ahern said in a statement that he was reviewing the findings and would make further comment in due course.

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