Foster and Allen barrister expected to be struck off
Published 30/11/2011 | 05:00
THE controversial barrister who handled the financial affairs of Foster and Allen is expected to become the first to be struck off in Ireland -- meaning he will no longer be able to practise.
The Irish Independent has learnt that the King's Inns has brought disciplinary proceedings against Patrick Russell.
The King's Inns has the exclusive rights to train barristers in Ireland and nobody has ever been disbarred in its 470-year history.
Musical duo Foster and Allen are facing a multi-million-euro bill in unpaid taxes and penalties from the Revenue Commissioners.
The move by the law school to strike Mr Russell off the barristers' roll comes as the musicians claim they were victims of a fraud by the lawyer.
Foster and Allen said they each paid Mr Russell €50,000 to settle in full their tax liabilities and he had supplied them with a letter from Revenue saying their tax affairs were in order.
But they claimed Revenue had not received the money and the letters were forgeries.
Mr Russell's activities as an accountant and adviser are being probed by the Garda Bureau of Fraud Investigation.
Foster and Allen have been ordered to pay a combined €6m bill in unpaid taxes and penalties to Revenue after the High Court ruled against them last week.
Tony Allen, of Kileenatoor, Mount Temple, Co Westmeath, had opposed an application by Revenue for €3.389m against him, arising from unpaid income taxes and penalties between 1986 and 1997.
He claimed he had a defence and the matter should have gone to a full hearing.
Mick Foster, of Walshtown, Mullingar, Co Westmeath, had asked the court to set aside a judgment for €2.947m made against him by Revenue in 2008, relating to unpaid taxes from 1986 to 2002.
The Irish Independent has learnt the King's Inns has started strike-off proceedings against Mr Russell who quit the law library four years ago in the middle of a fitness to practice inquiry by the Bar Council, the ruling body for barristers.
Mr Russell is a former business associate of ex-Taoiseach Albert Reynolds and had a legal practice in the midlands. He is now believed to be in England.
Barristers who fall foul of the Bar Council's code of conduct normally resign voluntarily if there is a finding of serious misconduct against them.
But they still hold the title of barrister-at-law and remain on the roll of the King's Inns.
Last year the King's Inns changed its rules and set up a new mechanism allowing it to receive complaints from the Bar Council.
The change allowed the disciplinary proceedings against Mr Russell. The disciplinary proceedings are not yet complete.
Foster and Allen are among a growing number of former clients to complain about his conduct.
The musical duo claimed any correspondence relating to the Revenue was dealt with directly by Mr Russell.
Mr Allen said they had no reason to suspect that he was doing anything wrong.
"He was an accountant, a barrister, a tax barrister and we took him at his word to look after things and it just seemed to get completely out of hand," Mr Allen told the Irish Independent. "Everything went through him."
Last June Mr Russell was arrested and brought before the High Court in connection with the alleged misappropriation of €580,000 given to him by professional musician Patrick Griffen for purposes including clearing his tax liabilities.
Mr Russell was once financial adviser to the so-called 'Black Widow' Catherine Nevin, who was convicted in 2000 of murdering her husband Tom Nevin at his pub Jack White's in Brittas Bay.
During the original murder case, Mr Russell was a key witness for the State.
Mr Allen has claimed he and Mr Foster will not be able to repay the money owed and said they intended to appeal the High Court ruling.
The musician said issues surrounding their appeal were being dealt with by their legal team.
The duo believe they were entitled to artists' exemption relief, which allows earnings gained by writers, composers and other artists to be exempt of tax within a defined limit.
Although declining to comment specifically on the Foster and Allen case, the Revenue Commissioners said retrospective applications for the relief were not permitted.
But a source close to the musicians said this had never been legally tested.