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KPMG tax evasion probe widens after four partners are held

The Belfast office of KPMG. Picture by Arthur Allison, Pacemaker 
Gary McDonald, Business Editor

AN investigation into an alleged major tax fraud involving four senior partners at Belfast accountancy firm KPMG has been widened, it has emerged.

The Irish News revealed on Wednesday that Jon D'Arcy, Eamonn Donaghy, Arthur O'Brien and Paul Hollway were arrested by officers from HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) in connection with what it said was "a suspected tax evasion".

It is understood all four - who are among the most high-profile accountants in north - were detained in a carefully planned and co-ordinated early morning operation by the authorities.

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And at least one legal firm in Belfast was also visited as part of its wider investigation, although there is no suggestion of wrong-doing on its part.

C&H Jefferson, which has been operational since 1898, confirmed that a request has been made by HMRC to access client files.

"We are complying with this request," a spokesman for the practice said.

The Irish News also understands that corporate law firm A&L Goodbody is advising KPMG on these matters.

On Thursday night KPMG had booked a table-for-10 at the high profile Chartered Accountants Ireland annual black tie dinner at Belfast City Hall, although none of the four partners were there.

All were said to be "on administrative leave".

KPMG said it was cooperating with the HMRC probe and added that it "does not have any indication that the investigation relates to the business of KPMG or the business of our clients".

Jon D'Arcy heads the firm's audit and transaction services team while tax practice head Eamonn Donaghy has been a major figure in the fight to have corporation tax-setting powers devolved to Stormont.

Paul Hollway is head of corporate finance at KPMG in Ireland while Arthur O'Brien provides audit and advisory services to a number of clients, including the Northern Ireland Policing Board.

All four are also directors of property firm JEAP, which lost millions during the crash.

They are understood to have put a combined £500,000 of their own money into the venture.

On Thursday night the Chartered Accountants Regulatory Board (CARB), which is the independent regulator for the chartered accountancy profession in Ireland, said: "We will monitor closely the progress of any investigation by tax authorities and will take any appropriate or necessary action based on the outcome of same."

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