Archive for Monday, October 2, 2006

Loans repaid in bid to defuse scandal

October 2, 2006

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— Prime Minister Bertie Ahern has repaid business friends more than $100,000 in hopes of defusing a scandal that is threatening to force him from power, officials said Sunday.

Two government officials, who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity, confirmed newspaper reports that Ahern mailed checks Friday to a dozen friends who had given him about $65,000 in late 1993 and early 1994. Ahern did not disclose having received the money until The Irish Times newspaper on Sept. 21 reported details of the payments.

Ahern, who has led Ireland since 1997, characterized the money as an interest-bearing loan - but conceded he had not repaid any of it to his longtime friends and business acquaintances.

Opposition leaders had accused Ahern of holding himself to a different standard by taking the money in secret while admonishing fellow lawmakers for similar actions.

In parliament last week, Ahern suggested he would repay the amount with 3 percent annual interest, but the repayment of $115,130 included 5 percent interest.

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