Monday 26 September 2016

Thomas 'Slab' Murphy's appeal on tax evasion conviction to take place in November

Ruaidhrí Giblin

Published 27/05/2016 | 14:32

Thomas 'Slab' Murphy
Thomas 'Slab' Murphy

Prominent republican Thomas “Slab” Murphy has been given a date in November to appeal his conviction for tax evasion.

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The 66-year-old, whose farm at Ballybinaby, Hackballscross, Co Louth, straddles the border with Northern Ireland, had pleaded not guilty at the non-jury Special Criminal Court to nine charges of failing to comply with tax laws in the Irish Republic.

The three-judge Special Criminal Court found Murphy guilty on all counts and he was sentenced to 18 months imprisonment on February 26 last.

During case management procedures in the Court of Appeal today, barrister Tony McGillicuddy BL, for Murphy, said notice of appeal had been filed in March with very extensive grounds of appeal - 47 grounds of respect of conviction and 5 in respect of sentence.

Mr McGillicuddy said he was seeking to ensure the written submissions would cover as much as possible but they were “far longer than would be normal” and added that the case involved a lot of documentary material.

Given the length of the sentence, Mr McGillicuddy asked the judge for a provisional hearing date.

Counsel for the Director of Public Prosecutuons, Paul Burns SC, said submissions should be filed before a date was set.

“The problem”, Mr Justice Birmingham said to Mr Burns, was that there may not be a three day slot, as was required for the appeal, this side of Christmas. Murphy has also appealed against the severity of his 18 month sentence.

The judge fixed the case for three days from November 22 but that date had a provisional element, he said. The case will be mentioned again in June to confirm the November listing.

Murphy was not in court for the procedural matter.

Last December, following a 32-day trial, Murphy was found guilty of nine charges of failing to furnish a return of his income, profits or gains or the source of his income, profits or gains to the Collector General or the Inspector of Taxes for the years 1996/97 to 2004.

The court had heard evidence that the Cab's assessment of Murphy's tax bill is worth 5,344,157 Euro and that from farming income, the issue for which Murphy was tried before the court, he owes 189,964 Euro.

The estimated loss to Revenue is based on the "notional figure" of 15,000 Euro or 15,000 Irish Pounds per year profit from Murphy's farming business, the court had heard.

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.

From 1996 to 2004, he received grants from the Department of Agriculture totalling over 100,000 Euro. The payments were made for farming grant schemes including the Slaughter Premium Scheme, the Special Beef Premium and EU Area Aid.

The court also heard of a search carried out by the Cab in March 2006 in an outhouse on the border with Northern Ireland, when investigators seized a large volume of documents and ledgers, cash worth 256,235 Euro and 111,185 Pounds Sterling, as well as uncashed cheques worth 579,000 Euro, 80,000 Pounds Sterling and 24,000 Irish Pounds.

Evidence from livestock mart managers was that Murphy purchased cattle with a total value of over 500,000 Euro. Meat factory managers told the court that he sold cattle with a total value of over 200,000 Euro.

The court also heard evidence of a bank account opened in Murphy's name which, at the judgement hearing last December, Mr Justice Butler said was “operated by [Murphy] to his benefit”.

Murphy's defence lawyers had claimed that his brother, Patrick, was in control of the farming activities and was therefore the chargeable person. A chargeable person is a person who is chargeable to tax on income.

Passing sentence at the non-jury Special Criminal Court in February, presiding judge Mr Justice Paul Butler said the court's decision was not influenced by the publicity surrounding the trial.

Mr Justice Butler said that, during the trial, “some commentary referred to other unconnected matters” and that the court was "aware of the publicity”.

“It has no bearing on the revenue charges brought against [Murphy},” the judge said, adding that the court was "in no way influenced" by the publicity.

The court tried Murphy as a “farmer and cattle dealer,” the judge said.

After sentencing, in a statement issued via his solicitor, Murphy had said he maintains his innocence and had instructed his legal team to "pursue an appeal immediately".

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