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'KPMG four' arrested during dawn raids

KPMG's offices in Belfast
Gary McDonald, Business Editor

ENFORCEMENT officers from HM Revenue and Customs made a series of co-ordinated dawn arrests on the greater Belfast homes of four of the north's best known accountants as part of a major fraud investigation.

More details are emerging of the special operation on Wednesday in which the partners, all based at the Northern Ireland headquarters of global accountancy firm KPMG, were detained in connection with what has been described as "a suspected tax evasion".

Jon D'Arcy, Eamonn Donaghy, Arthur O'Brien and Paul Hollway were arrested and taken to a Psni station in the city for questioning before being released later the same day.

Around 50 officers from HMRC in Northern Ireland are understood to have powers of arrest, but these can only be used for suspected HMRC-related offences, principally around tax evasion, fuel-laundering and internal governance.

HMRC says it is "normal practice" to take suspects to a police station rather than one of its offices.

The Irish News revealed on Wednesday that HMRC has made a request to access client files form at least one Belfast law firm as part of the probe into the KPMG four.

City centre legal firm C&H Jefferson says it is "complying with the request" and is not accused of any wrongdoing.

The four KPMG parters remain on "administrative leave" according to the company, which says is still has no indication if the investigation relates to the business of KPMG or its clients.

Aside from their KPMG roles, the four men are also directors in a property investment company called JEAP Ltd.

Meanwhile three of the men - D'Arcy, Donaghy and O'Brien - were due to attend the accountancy profession's biggest dinner of the year in Belfast City Hall on Thursday evening.

KPMG was hosting two tables for 10 at the Chartered Accountants Ireland black tie bash, attended by more than 400 guests.

But despite the men's names still being on the guest-list posted outside the main banqueting hall, none of the three showed up.

Last year, when asked for an update into the investigation, HMR said it had "nothing further to add".

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