Friday 9 December 2016

Michael Lowry loses High Court bid to stop trial on mainly tax related charges

Tim Healy

Published 23/02/2016 | 11:06

Michael Lowry
Michael Lowry

Independent TD Michael Lowry has lost his High Court bid to stop his trial on mainly tax related charges.

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The TD’s arguments for stopping his trial were “devoid of any substance”, Mr Justice Seamus Noonan said.

The judge today refused Mr Lowry's application for orders restraining the DPP proceeding with the prosecution of the TD before Dublin Circuit Criminal Court.

He also refused to order the TD be tried in his native Co Tipperary rather than Dublin.

The judge said Mr Lowry’s case was based on “a multitude of arguments which are in many instances, ingenious and even superficially attractive but are, in truth, devoid of any substance and “ultimately built on a foundation of sand”.

The judge rejected arguments it was oppressive and unfair to prosecute Mr Lowry in circumstances including because holders of off-shore Ansbacher accounts had not been prosecuted.

During the judicial review challenge, lawyers for Mr Lowry said, if convicted, he could face “very serious consequences” as the charges attracted penalties of up to five years jail. A person jailed for more than six months cannot serve as a TD, the judge was told.

The criminal proceedings had been stayed pending the judicial review.

Mr Lowry denies charges of allegedly filing incorrect income tax returns for the year 2002 and conniving in the alleged delivery by his company Garuda of incorrect corporation tax returns for the years ending 2002 and 2006.

He denies a further charge, brought under the Companies Acts, of wilfully causing a company to fail to keep proper books of account between August 28th 2002 and August 3rd 2007.

The five charges arise from a 2002 transaction involving a €372,000 payment due to Garuda being diverted to an Isle of Man trust account nominated by Omagh accountant Kevin Phelan.

Mr Lowry says he self-declared and self-corrected the matter in 2007, a Revenue Appeals Commissioner found he had no personal income tax liability, Garuda ultimately paid some €38,000 corporation tax and the only outstanding issue is a disputed surcharge liability of €2,410.

The DPP argued the matter was significantly more serious than that. Mr Lowry's counsel Patrick Treacy SC had, in the judicial review, complained the DPP incorrectly placed "centre stage" an Appeals Commissioner finding there was evidence Mr Lowry misappropriated €372,000 from Garuda in 2002.

The Commissioner, in a July 2015 determination, said there was "evidence" of the funds being misappropriated but later, apparently referring to the word "misappropriated", said he was not using that word in a "perjorative" sense, Mr Treacy said. ends

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