FORMER minister Michael Lowry faces three new charges of "knowingly or wilfully" filing incorrect tax returns.
The Independent TD for Tipperary North did not appear in person before Thurles District Court where the fresh charges were levelled against him yesterday.
Mr Lowry (60), of Glenreigh, Holycross, Co Tipperary, now faces a total of four counts relating to his tax returns. The first charge was presented in December.
Three of the charges relate to a date in October 2003 and involve income tax for the 2002 tax period.
The fourth charge relates to a date in August 2007 and involves income tax for the 2006 tax year.
The charges, under section 1078 (2) (A) of the Taxes Consolidation Act, carry a fine of up to €3,000 and/or up to six months in jail if proven in a District Court -- and a fine of up to €127,000 and/or up to five years' imprisonment if proven before a jury in the Circuit Court.
In a statement issued after the court hearing, the North Tipperary TD said that he would contest the case.
"The matters before today's court in Thurles relate to technical breaches, which Revenue allege arose 11 years ago," he said.
"I intend to vigorously contest the Revenue allegations. My lawyers have advised that I have a full defence to the allegations."
Mr Lowry was represented before Judge Elizabeth MacGrath by solicitor Michael Collins.
State solicitor Gerard O'Brien applied for the matter to be adjourned until February 25.
He also confirmed to Judge MacGrath that the DPP had instructed that the matter be dealt with by indictment before the Circuit Criminal Court by judge and jury and not in the District Court.
Judge MacGrath was told that the adjournment was with the consent of Mr Collins.
However, the judge directed that a shorter adjournment period apply and referred the matter to Thurles District Court on February 4.
She said the State could then apply, if necessary, for a further adjournment to prepare the book of evidence in the case for service.
The father of three was Minister for Transport, Energy and Communications in John Bruton's Rainbow Coalition government in the 1990s.
He was first elected to the Dail for Fine Gael in 1987, having been a successful Tipperary-based businessman and a GAA official.
He was appointed to Mr Bruton's Cabinet following the collapse of Albert Reynolds's Fianna Fail-Labour Coalition in late 1994. Mr Lowry resigned his position in November 1996.
He has now been an Independent TD for 18 years. Mr Lowry has been returned as a TD for the Tipperary North constituency at every election since 1987.