The Irish Central Bank has been criticised for failing to pick up on evidence of tax evasion in connection with the Ansbacher (Cayman) Bank sooner, according to a report in the Irish Examiner on Monday.
Citing the 10,000 page Ansbacher report, which was released at the weekend, the Examiner article suggests that the Central Bank could have shut down the scam more than 25 years ago, had the suspicions of inspectors examining the bank's Dublin base been followed up.
The Ansbacher report reveals that from 1976, the Central Bank carried out two-yearly inspections of the Guinness & Mahon Bank, which was the Dublin-based main element of the Ansbacher operation.
During the bank's very first inspection, Central Bank inspector Adrian Byrne raised the alarm, suggesting that what was happening at Ansbacher was tax evasion rather than legal tax avoidance.
'It just didn't smell right, it just didn't taste right. There was something wrong.' Mr Byrne told investigators examining the bank's chequered history.
However, Mr Byrne's concerns were clearly ignored, as the term 'evasion' was removed, and substituted with 'avoidance' in two inspection reports, according to the Ansbacher investigation.
The report goes on to suggest that although the Central Bank's powers were not augmented by legislation until 1989, the banking regulator had enough power at the time that concerns were originally raised as to the legality of Ansbacher's practices to rein in the Guinness & Mahon Bank, had it wanted to..
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