Saturday 10 December 2016

Murphy owes €190,000, court told, as sentence put back to polling day

Andrew Phelan

Published 13/02/2016 | 02:30

Thomas ‘Slab’ Murphy at court yesterday. Photo: Courtpix
Thomas ‘Slab’ Murphy at court yesterday. Photo: Courtpix

The sentencing of prominent republican Thomas 'Slab' Murphy for tax evasion has been adjourned until election day, February 26.

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The case has placed sharp focus on Sinn Féin's support for the IRA godfather, who party president Gerry Adams has insisted is a "good republican".

Mr Adams is already under pressure over his party's opposition to the juryless Special Criminal Court where Murphy faced trial.

But while Murphy will face sentencing as voters head to the polls, the two-week adjournment will also allow candidates to kick for touch on the controversial issue until then.

The former IRA chief owes the Irish exchequer almost €190,000 for eight years of tax-dodging, the Special Criminal Court in Dublin was told yesterday.

The sentencing hearing for the 66-year-old bachelor farmer heard details of estimated income and interest built up after he evaded tax from 1996 to 2004.

Murphy, from Ballibinaby, Hackballscross, Co Louth, on the border with Northern Ireland, was found guilty of nine counts of tax fraud by three judges at the non-jury court in December.

He has been described by Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams as a "good republican", while Martin McGuinness, Northern Ireland's Deputy First Minister, said peace had only been secured thanks to support from men like him.

The court heard that Murphy now works as a yardsman for a company in Crossmaglen, where, as a PAYE employee, he earns €1,055 per month.

Paul Burns, senior counsel for the State, outlined to the judges the assessments made of Murphy's earnings, taxes owed and interest. The total tax bill for the eight years was €38,519.56, the court heard.

Interest built up on those unpaid bills totals €151,445.10, taking the final bill to €189,964.66, Mr Burns said.

The court was told that the figures were based on income of €15,000 a year from the Murphy farm.

"I want to make this clear - Tom Murphy has not made any settlement," he said.

During the trial, the court heard evidence that although Murphy conducted dealings in relation to cattle and land and received farming grants from the Department of Agriculture, he failed to make any returns to Revenue.

During a search of a cattle shed, the court heard, CAB investigators seized a large volume of documents and ledgers, cash of €256,235 and £111,185, as well as uncashed cheques worth €579,000, £80,000 and IR£24,000.

Cheques

The documents and ledgers related to cattle trade conducted by Murphy and the entries in the ledgers did not follow normal accountancy procedures, the court heard.

Mr Burns provided the three judges at the court with relevant case law in order to assist in sentencing Murphy.

The court heard of 10 previous cases involving similar offences, including that of Paul Begley, the Dublin businessman who was jailed for a €1.6m fraud involving the importation of garlic from China.

Mr Burns said that mitigating circumstances in these previous cases involved restitution, admission of guilt, expression of remorse, absence of previous convictions and the identification of documents by the accused that might never have otherwise surfaced. There has been no restitution in Murphy's case, the court heard.

John Kearney QC, for Murphy, told the court that it was "an unusual case".

He said that there were "blurred lines and grey areas surrounding the farming unit, the family unit".

Mr Justice Butler, presiding with Judge John O'Hagan and Judge Anne Ryan, remanded Murphy on continuing bail until Friday, February 26.

Irish Independent

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