A COMPLAINT that former taoiseach Bertie Ahern failed to make a full declaration of his business interests is being investigated by the Houses of the Oireachtas.
A member of the public lodged a formal objection pointing out that Ahern had not declared his appointment as chairman of the International Forestry Fund in his official register of interests for 2009.
The complaint has been logged by the Oireachtas and has now been sent forward for investigation by a committee of five TDs.
A letter sent by Kieran Coughlan, the clerk of the Dáil, said: "Your complaint re an alleged contravention of Section 5 of the Ethics Act by Deputy Bertie Ahern, namely that he did not declare in the Register of Member's Interests for 2009 a business relationship with the International Forestry Fund in 2009, has been forwarded to the Committee of Member's Interests of Dáil éireann for their attention pursuant to Section 8 of the Ethics in Public Office Act 1995." The complaint will be looked at by the committee, which is made up of five TDs: Noel Grealish, the former PD; Peter Kelly and Noel O'Flynn of Fianna Fáil; Padraic McCormack of Fine Gael and Labour's Jack Wall.
A second complaint by the same member of the public regarding the extent of Ahern's private work and also the payment of 'turning up' money for attending the Dáil was rejected. "I cannot assist you in the other matters you have raised," said Coughlan in response to the letter.
The investigation centres on Ahern's appointment as chairman of the International Forestry Fund, which was announced last year.
The original complaint, submitted by James Casey, with an address in Dublin 6, said: "Helvetia Wealth AG of Switzerland, an international finance company offering offshore banking to clients, are the main backers of the fund. Even though he did not take up the chairmanship until 1 January 2010, he clearly had a business relationship with the fund in 2009 and I consider it should have been disclosed in the 2009 Declaration of Members' interests for the sake of openness and transparency, especially considering the backer is involved in offshore banking, which is a controversial area. If there is one omission, could there be more?"
In response to enquiries from the Houses of the Oireachtas, Casey later wrote that it was clear the former taoiseach had a business relationship with the International Forestry Fund in 2009, when the decision to appoint him was made. He wrote: "It is surely obvious that prior to the official announcement in November 2009 there would have been communications and meetings between Deputy Ahern and/or his professional advisers and Helvetia Wealth to agree the terms of the appointment including his fees.
"Presumably some sort of agreement/ contract was drawn up. Deputy Ahern is not just a director – he is chairman. It is also possible that a payment was made to confirm Deputy Ahern's services."