€3.3m passed through welfare cheat's account over three years
Published 12/11/2011 | 05:00
A FATHER of 10 claimed €41,000 in social welfare over four years as an unemployed farm labourer -- but €3.3m passed through his bank account during this time.
Daniel Kelleher (43) was jailed for four years yesterday for a series of tax offences and social welfare frauds after it emerged he is now estimated to owe the Revenue Commissioners €1.65m in outstanding tax.
If that sum is verified, with 100pc penalties and interest applied, he could face a tax bill of double that amount.
The prosecution was the first by a joint Revenue Commissioners-Department of Social Protection taskforce.
Officials last night said that the case highlighted the fact that social welfare fraud and tax evasion would be rooted out.
But Revenue inspector Aidan Murphy admitted that, despite a major probe, they were still uncertain as to the precise origins and destination of €2.7m that passed through Mr Kelleher's AIB current account between 2006 and 2008.
Revenue has accounted for €668,000 in the account, which came from Kelleher's operation of a construction business, which included machinery hire, concrete supplies and contracting work. He operated this business while claiming unemployment benefit.
Kelleher, of Stoneyridge, Shanakiel, Cork, appeared before the Circuit Criminal Court yesterday after pleading guilty to a total of 11 charges.
These included two charges of social welfare fraud, one charge of failing to file a tax return and eight charges relating to various VAT offences.
The charges followed a lengthy investigation by the Revenue Commissioners when, during an audit of another Cork concrete firm in 2007, they discovered invoices from a bogus firm, Valley Pre-Cast. These invoices had fake VAT numbers and an incorrect PPS number.
Mr Kelleher was eventually contacted and, in August 2008, was questioned under caution in relation to the non-payment of VAT and non-declaration of income.
Judge Patrick Moran heard that when one Revenue official asked him about the false invoices, the defendant "laughed and shook his head".
Later, Kelleher made admissions and agreed to engage with the Revenue Commissioners over the tax outstanding.
However, Judge Patrick Moran was told that, after three years, Revenue only received an accounts submission from the defendant several hours before the case was due to start.
Judge Moran described the case as involving "extraordinary fraud" and "systematic and deliberate" tax evasion.
Tom Power BL, for Mr Kelleher, said that the social welfare frauds were "foolish and stupid" and the defendant was now deeply remorseful.
He had 10 children, was separated from his wife who was ill and he was trying to care for her and the children, the oldest of whom is now just 20.
"He wasn't thinking clearly -- he felt things were chaotic," he said.
The defendant also thought that, because he was paying tax at a rate of 35pc due to not having a C2 form, this covered his other liabilities.
However, he said that his client's accounts showed that, far from owing €1.65m in tax, he was due a tax refund of €21,000. The figure quoted by Revenue officials was now in dispute.
Judge Moran commented: "Perhaps you are being over-optimistic."
The judge also queried why, when the defendant was first made aware of the issue three years ago and came before the Circuit Court last May, he only furnished accounts to the tax authorities on the morning of the case.
"This was a wanton delay," he said.
Judge Moran imposed an 18-month prison sentence for the social welfare fraud, an 18-month sentence for failing to file a tax return and a one-year sentence for the VAT offences.
He ordered that all sentences be served consecutively -- meaning that Kelleher will now serve four years in prison.
"The court has to give an example to people like you -- this type of behaviour will not be tolerated," he warned.