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Mick Wallace is a criminal from the more foul end of the white collar sewer. Last December he was convicted of holding on to money he’d taken from his employees for the purpose of paying it into their pension fund. Once caught he paid over the money so by Irish standards the slate was clean. Certainly the episode caused him no problems with his fellow Technical Group members in the Dail. The hard Left Socialist Party and People Before Profit Alliance don’t have any qualms associating with employers who rip off their staff.

Today Wallace has come out and told us that he’s a liar and a tax fraudster who knowingly made a false declaration to the Revenue in relation to VAT liability. The timing of his Pauline conversion to honesty is interesting, coming as it does just days before the affair is to be published in Swindler’s List.

There’s a pattern in Wallace’s law breaking – He takes money people give to him for other purposes and puts it to whatever use he sees fit. In the present case, people who bought flats from him paid him the VAT on the understanding that it would be paid to the Revenue. The money they paid will in most cases have been added to their mortgages so they’ll be repaying for maybe 30 years, money that Wallace claims he put into his failing business. To add insult to injury, that business has gone to the wall anyway so now the taxpayer will be saddled with the cost much of its unpaid bank debt.

The arrogance from Wallace is breathtaking. His legalistic distinction between his person and the legal entity that is his company puts him in the same league as Ray Burke (who was jailed for making false tax declarations), the Flynns, Haughey and all the others of that ilk. It also raises questions about the nature of limited liability businesses. If a business has a tax liability arising out of a false declaration by the owner or director of that business then it’s an obscenity to allow that owner or director to avail of the protections of limited liability to avoid paying the debt.

A second grave issue that arises is the continued practice whereby the Revenue makes ‘settlements’ with white collar crooks. Such settlements are totally opaque which means they’re open to abuse. Indeed there have been serious questions in the past about settlements with the likes of Haughey and some of his benefactors.

Even if there is no corruption it is repugnant to the ideals of a democratic republic to have those who commit crimes using spreadsheets and ledgers processed in a parallel and preferential justice system to those who employ more vulgar techniques in their criminality.

It would be nice to think that this scandal will prompt the state to address these issues but I’m too long in the tooth to expect that anything will be done. Meanwhile, if Wallace wants us to believe that he’s genuinely contrite about his wrongdoing there’s only one honourable course he can take, he must resign his seat. If he doesn’t then he’s just another prick in the Dail.

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