The Circuit Court in Dublin will be packed on Tuesday 26th May for the resumed sentence hearing of disgraced lobbyist and former Fianna Fáil press officer, Frank Dunlop.
Mr Dunlop pleaded guilty in January to five sample charges in relation to bribes he paid to politicians in return for their support for the re-zoning of lands at Carrickmines in south Dublin between 1992 and 1997.
At an earlier hearing in May, lawyers for Mr Dunlop pleaded for a non-custodial sentence for their client on the grounds that he co-operated fully with the Garda investigation into the corrupt re-zoning of the Carrickmines lands led by officers from the Criminal Assets Bureau.
Aidan Redmond SC for the former lobbyist and recent law-graduate said that Mr Dunlop has suffered ill health and has lost his lucrative public relations business as a result of the prolonged investigations into his role in the widespread corruption of the planning system in Dublin. Dunlop’s cardiologist, Professor Declan Sugrue, concurred with this.
His lawyer went on to claim that in his tribunal evidence, and in his statements to the Garda, Mr Dunlop has acted as a ‘whistleblower’ and should not be therefore punished with a custodial sentence.
A Criminal Assets Bureau officer told the court that Mr Dunlop has assisted its investigation into the illicit re-zoning of the lands at Carrickmines and in their efforts to recover €53 million it has seized from the landowners, Jackson Way Ltd. Detective Garda Martin Harrington said that Dunlop will be the key witness for the prosecution in the State’s case against Jackson Way. The British registered company is owned by arcade owner, Jim Kennedy, and solicitor John Caldwell who live in the Isle of Man. Mr Kennedy paid Mr Dunlop to secure re-zoning from agricultural use of the 108 acres of land strategically located on the route of the M50 motorway, which he purchased in the late 1980’s.
Over several years of evidence at the planning tribunal, Mr Dunlop described how he was paid millions of euro by various builders and developers to secure land re-zonings across the city and county. Cork developer, Owen O’Callaghan, told the tribunal that he paid more than €2.3 million to Mr Dunlop in relation to the Quarryvale development in west Dublin, although he claimed that he was not aware that the lobbyist was bribing politicians with the money.
Many of the payments were made by Mr Dunlop at the time of local and general elections and a number of former TDs including G V Wright (FF), Michael Joe Cosgrave (FG), and former senators Don Lydon (FF) and Liam Cosgrave junior (FG), were among the beneficiaries. Another of the councillors he named, Tony Fox (IND), is standing as a candidate in the Dundrum area of south Dublin in the June local elections. Mr Fox has insisted that any monies he received from the former lobbyist were legitimate political donations.
Mr Dunlop acted as director of elections for Fianna Fáil in the November 1992 general election when large sums were transferred to him by Mr O’Callaghan. Under intense questioning by tribunal lawyers Mr Dunlop denied making payments to more senior politicians or ministers on behalf of his developer clients.
He was also asked about various meetings and discussions he had with former Taoiseach, Bertie Ahern, in relation to the Quarryvale development and other projects involving Mr O’Callaghan in the early 1990s. At the tribunal his former accountant confirmed that a Revenue Commissioner’s audit into Mr Dunlop and his companies, which might have exposed his corrupt activities many years earlier, had “withered on the vine” after it commenced during the same years.
Mr Dunlop was also accused at the tribunal of making false allegations concerning the tax affairs of developer, Tom Gilmartin, to the British internal revenue service. Gilmartin’s disclosures of VAT free payments made from his company Barkhill without his knowledge to the lobbyist, first exposed Dunlop’s corrupt activities in 1998.
In April 2000 Dunlop was forced to admit to bribing politicians after tribunal investigators discovered a secret account in Rathfarnham through which millions of pounds had passed.
Mr Dunlop had a business partnership with former Fianna Fáil fundraiser Des Richardson when they shared offices on Mount Street a few doors from party headquarters in the 1980s. He previously worked as a government press officer under former Taoisigh Jack Lynch and Charles Haughey.
The tribunal report into a series of re-zoning controversies involving Mr Dunlop is expected early next year and may result in further criminal charges against the shamed lobbyist. He faces a sentence of up to seven years in jail or a fine of up to €50,000 on the current charges.