Former ministerÂ Ivor Callely claimed there was simply “a level of ambiguity” over fraudulent expense claims in a bizarre set of letters sent to authorities at Leinster House.
The former minister, who was caught red-handed after a newspaper investigation into his claims for mobile phone expenses, said he wished to “withdraw” the claims and repay the money involved.
However, in the letters he made no admission that the claims had actually been forged using invoices from a company that was no longer in business.
In two letters released by the Oireachtas following a Freedom of Information request, he repaid close to €3,000 to the taxpayer.
In the first, he wrote: “As you are aware, I received a payment in November 2007 of €2,879.45 following the process of my claim.
“However, there is a level of ambiguity regarding this claim and therefore I wish to withdraw this claim, refund the monies that I received and attach cheque for same. I regret any difficulties that this matter has created.”
The letter is signed simply Ivor.
In a second letter sent five days later, the then Senator made a further repayment after being allowed to examine expense claims he had made to the Oireachtas.
He wrote: “Thank you for your accommodation of my request to inspect my expense file for mobile phones under the Direct Purchase Scheme.
“I noted that five of the six claims and receipts submitted were from a business operating at Communications House, Fairview Strand, Fairview, Dublin 3.
“Due to the ambiguity associated with this business, I withdraw the April ’08 claim for €737.60 and refund the monies as attached.”
He said he again regretted “any difficulties” the claims had created.
There was in fact very little “ambiguity” over the expense claims, which had been exposed in the Irish Mail on Sunday just a few weeks previously.
He had submitted claims for four mobile phones using invoices from a business in Dublin, which had actually gone bust close to a decade before the claims were made.
Under the so-called Direct Purchase Scheme, TDs and Senators were allowed to claim €750 every eighteen months for the purchase of a new mobile phone.
And in November 2007, Mr Callely submitted a claim to the Houses of the Oireachtas Commission for almost €3,000 using four separate forged receipts.
A declaration on the form said: “I hereby certify that the expenses claimed have been actually and necessarily incurred by me in relation to my membership of Dáil Éireann and the particulars furnished herein are in all respects true.”
Despite the fact that the invoices showed clear evidence of having been fake — including outdated six-digit phone numbers and pounds signs instead of euros — they were still paid out by authorities.
It was only following the newspaper expose that the truth emerged and a garda investigation into the claims was launched.
Mr Callely later pleaded guilty to fraudulently using six invoices to claim a total of €4,207.45 and was given a five-month jail sentence.
The former politician’s troubles did not end there however, and in May, he avoided jail after settling a long-running debt.
The ex-Fianna Fáil minister cleared a debt of €1,755, which had been outstanding for more than three years to an accountancy firm and over which he led the court on a “merry dance”. He was back in the news today.
Mr Callely was one of two TDs discovered to have made fraudulent claims of mobile phone expenses along with another former minister Ned O’Keeffe.
The Oireachtas said they did not have any records of correspondence with Mr O’Keeffe surrounding his expense claims and said a repayment of €3,737.50 was received from him in January 2015.