"Much of the explanation provided by Mr. Ahern as to the source of the substantial funds identified and inquired into in the course of the tribunal's public hearings was deemed by the tribunal to be untrue," the judges found.
They accused Ahern's government, which founded the original fact-finding tribunal in 1997, of launching "extraordinary and unprecedented" attacks on their work in a bid to stop it once the target of their investigation became Ahern himself.
The judges said lawmakers must do much more to stamp out corruption in their ranks. They recommended judges receive the power to ban lawmakers from office who are convicted of bribery; tougher laws to protect whistleblowers; better reporting of politicians' donations and other gifts, many of which still are kept secret; a new registry for lobbyists and politicians' contacts with them; and new requirements for lawmakers to disclose all their business interests and potential conflicts of interest.
During his 15 days of testimony in 2007, Ahern admitted keeping most of the money in personal safes at his office and home from 1992 to 1994; failing to keep a personal bank account during much of the time under investigation; and paying no tax on any of it until the investigators uncovered its existence.
Ahern testified that undocumented cash payments he received while in Britain were all unsolicited gifts, while identical payments he received in Ireland were loans. Under tax law at the time, overseas gifts and domestic loans were not taxable. Ahern made no repayments on the 1993 "loans" until the investigators discovered them in 2007. He ultimately negotiated a tax settlement for the unearthed funds.
The judges repeatedly dismissed Ahern's explanations for the source of myriad 1990s cash payments in Irish pounds, British pounds and U.S. dollars that eventually were deposited into accounts in the name of his then-girlfriend, Celia Larkin, and his two daughters. Ahern claimed to have won much of the money betting on horses.
They rejected testimony provided by Ahern and several business friends who claimed to have raised money for Ahern without his consent at a pub event in December 1993. The judges ruled that the alleged pub fundraiser was fictional.
The judges instead accepted as truthful the testimony of a senior Dublin stockbroker whom Ahern had identified as one of those friends. The stockbroker, Padraic O'Connor, said he barely knew Ahern and had been asked by Fianna Fail to make a 5,000 Irish pound (€6,350, $8,300) political donation in a company check for Ahern's benefit, which he did.
The judges said they could not prove or rule out allegations by an Irish property developer, Tom Gilmartin, that a rival developer, Owen O'Gallaghan, paid Ahern two bribes in 1989 and 1992 totaling more than €100,000 ($130,000). This allegation inspired the judges to launch a probe of Ahern's finances.
"On this key substantive point there is no evidence whatsoever to show I received anything from Mr. O'Callaghan," Ahern said. "Nor could there be because, put simply, this never happened."
Gilmartin also testified that he bribed Flynn and another Fianna Fail lawmaker, Liam Lawlor, as part of his unsuccessful effort to develop a Dublin shopping center.
The judges accepted that Gilmartin paid Flynn about €63,500 ($83,000), which the EU commissioner used toward buying a farm in his wife's name. They found that Gilmartin paid Lawlor 75,000 British pounds (€91,000, $120,000), and that both payments were corrupt.
Lawlor was briefly imprisoned several times for obstructing the tribunal's work and was killed in a Moscow car crash in 2005 while on a personal trip to buy properties.
Ahern, who cultivated a persona as an affable and plainspoken Dubliner, was personally popular while in office and credited with leading a frugal personal life.
He was Fianna Fail's fundraising director in the early 1990s and a protege of former Prime Minister Charles Haughey, who was found guilty by a previous tribunal of receiving more than €10 million ($13 million) in secret payments from many of Ireland's top businessmen while in office. Haughey faced no criminal charges, paid taxes and penalties of €6.5 million, and died in 2006.