Select Committee on Northern Ireland Affairs Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 210 - 219)




  210. Good afternoon, lady and gentlemen. Thank you very much for coming to help us in the inquiry that we are conducting into the financing of terrorism in Northern Ireland. The evidence which you give is being taken in private and we hope you will be as frank as you possibly can with us and in return what I say to you is that we will send you a transcript of what you say and if there are any matters which you feel are of a sensitive nature and should not be published we will consider that. We have done this with the Assistant Chief Constable, we have done it with another senior police officer and we have simply put asterisks where they have said some sensitive things to us so that those remarks do not see the light of day. At the same time it is very helpful to us if you can give us examples or share with us frankly some of the sensitive aspects of what you do. We will give you that guarantee in return. Please, any one of you feel free to answer or chip in according to your areas of expertise. Can we start perhaps with you telling us something of your difficulties of investigating in Northern Ireland, some of the aspects which makes tax investigation difficult or sensitive, I know the answer to some of this from my time there, and in what circumstances do you refer matters to the Special Compliance Office?
  (Mr Martin) Perhaps, Chairman, I could ask Keith Moore to start on this who has actually himself been engaged in investigations in Northern Ireland over quite a period. I think he will be able to fire off with some remarks.

  211. Right.
  (Mr Moore) My experience goes back to 1991 when I started as an investigator in Manchester covering Northern Ireland. From 1995 I was dealing with criminal investigations of tax offences in Northern Ireland. Now I have responsibility for criminal investigation, operational policy issues across the Special Compliance Office, including Northern Ireland. My experience goes back over ten years. The two main areas of difficulty in dealing with tax investigations in Northern Ireland stem firstly from security and secondly the existence of a land border which is unique to the rest of the United Kingdom. Dealing with the security aspect, first of all, we can never be sure whether an individual who is under investigation has connections with paramilitary organisations. That may become apparent at the start of an investigation, depending on how we have come across the investigation, or it may become apparent during the course of the investigation. So our investigators are security aware at all times in dealing with Northern Ireland investigations.

  212. Just to interrupt you and ask: are you able, within your rules, to cross-check with the police and Special Branch and other agencies in Northern Ireland as to whether there are paramilitary connections with the subject you are investigating?
  (Mr Moore) We carry out checks with the police service in Northern Ireland and we have established links for doing that. We do not do it automatically in every case but if we have any suspicions whatsoever then we will check through those sources. Also, we rely on local knowledge in the local districts. When I say our staff are security aware all of the time that they are dealing with Northern Ireland work, that is not a situation which is unique to Northern Ireland, there are other areas within the UK where we deal with cases where we will take similar precautions. When I say security awareness, we are careful in making travelling arrangements. We keep as low a profile as we can when we are in and around Northern Ireland and we would in cases of any doubt whatsoever arrange all meetings within tax offices. In certain cases we might even arrange meetings in police stations for the taking of witness statements, for instance, on odd occasions. As far as the other difficulties go, the existence of the land border makes it very easy for taxpayers who wish to to walk down the road or drive down the road and put money in a bank account outside of the jurisdiction. On the mainland that requires a flight perhaps or to make use of banking facilities which may well be traced at some point. Also, in the Northern Ireland context, the family connections across the border very often make an address for a bank account and so on available which is not a situation which is quite so often available in the rest of the UK. Those are the two main difficulties in terms of carrying out our type of work in Northern Ireland.

  213. Could you just explain for us the difference between a Northern Ireland resident who wishes to evade tax and takes his money into the Republic and puts it into an Irish bank, and the British resident—English, Scottish, Welsh—who takes his money to a bank in Jersey in order to evade tax. Is there a difference? Is one harder to detect than the other?
  (Mr Moore) There is no difference and the detection of it, if the money is taken out of the jurisdiction in cash and deposited in a bank account, the difficulty for us in discovering that is the same in those two situations.

  214. That is not a special Northern Ireland problem?
  (Mr Moore) It is easier in Northern Ireland because, first of all, you have not got the flights and the travel difficulties of doing that which are very often traceable. Any means of getting to the Isle of Man or Jersey or Guernsey may appear in your expenditure somewhere. People do not tend to be quite as careful about the credit card slip for a flight, for instance, whereas if all you have got to do is jump in your car and drive down to Dublin that is something which is going to be very difficult for us to trace.

  215. Have you experienced any particular difficulty with regard to intimidation or threats to your staff?
  (Mr Moore) In the last few years—

  Chairman: Perhaps you get them in Manchester as well, I do not know.

Mr McCabe

  216. Probably more.
  (Mr Moore) In the last few years we have had no threats within the Northern Ireland context. I am not actually aware of any threats outside Northern Ireland either. The last threats of which I am aware within the Special Compliance Office area go back to 1988/1989 and there were then a number of telephone and postal incidents which coincided with a number of other circumstances. For instance, at the same time the tax office in Londonderry was subject to a bomb attack. The only incident after that was, I think, in 1992 or 1993 when there was a bomb in the street in Manchester where our office was at that time but there were a number of other Revenue offices there and it did not appear to be directed particularly at our office.


  217. The second question which I asked you: in what circumstances is a case referred to the Special Compliance Office? Is that the same as anywhere else?
  (Mr Moore) Yes.

  218. There are no different circumstances which might relate to paramilitaries?
  (Mr Moore) No. The circumstances for referring cases to the Special Compliance Office centre on two factors. Firstly, the amount of money which appears to be at risk from a suspected fraud and, secondly, the circumstances within which that fraud is perpetrated. For instance, are false documents involved, is it a second offence by somebody, various aggravating circumstances such as that, the involvement of an accountant for instance.

  219. I think what you are saying is there is no major difference in the way you tackle evasion in Northern Ireland and the rest of the United Kingdom?
  (Mr Moore) We try to deal with tax investigations in Northern Ireland in as close a way as to our methods in the rest of the UK.

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