Holder Confirmation Postponed Due to Police Tax-Fraud Queries

Article excerpt

The Senate Judiciary Committee has postponed confirmation hearings for U.S. Attorney Eric H. Holder Jr., once considered a shoo-in for appointment as deputy attorney general, amid rising concern over his role in a fraud case involving the Metropolitan Police Department's "unofficial tax man."

Sen. Orrin G. Hatch, Utah Republican and committee chairman, is not expected to reschedule hearings until next month to give Senate investigators more time to look into "additional matters that need to be followed," said committee spokeswoman Jeanne Lapatto.

Miss Lapatto declined to elaborate on the committee probe or on any specific reasons for the postponement, but acknowledged that the Justice Department had been contacted for "more information" and had expressed concern about jeopardizing ongoing cases.

According to sources close to the committee's inquiry, several members have raised questions concerning Mr. Holder's ties to a tax-fraud probe by the U.S. Attorney's Office that put the spotlight on hundreds of D.C. police officers.

U.S. District Judge Royce C. Lamberth sparked that concern this week when he suggested in court that prosecutors had "committed a fraud upon the court or . . . the public" when they told the Internal Revenue Service in May 1995 not to audit officers whose taxes had been prepared by Pro Tax, a firm owned by Mohinder I. Singh, now the focus of a criminal probe.

Investigators want to know who might have issued such an order and if the U.S. Attorney's Office improperly sought to protect the officers - including those who may have cheated on their tax returns - in an effort to preserve their credibility as prosecution witnesses in other cases.

The U.S. Attorney's Office has since said the order was verbally amended in November 1995 to allow all but 20 officers to be audited. The number of officers actually involved in the matter is still not clear, although federal authorities have said more than 500 officers were among Mr. Singh's clients.

Mr. Holder was out of the office yesterday and unavailable for comment. A congressional source said, however, the concerns delayed but did not appear to have derailed his confirmation chances.

"Normally, in a case like this, we take something off the shelf to buy time to get answers," the source said, adding that Mr. Holder will "come up, answer some questions and walk out a deputy attorney general."

It is not unusual for law enforcement officials to ask the IRS to delay civil audits until criminal investigations are completed, the source said. …