Tax cheat freed six months early
Published 26/03/2013 | 20:21
Tax cheat Paul Begley has walked out of jail six months early after being granted temporary release.
The 47-year-old had his record six-year sentence over a 1.6 million euro garlic import duty scam cut last month after appeal judges ruled it was excessive.
But it is understood he was released on Tuesday from Mountjoy's training unit and will carry out 12 weeks of community service in lieu of the remainder of his sentence.
Sources said the privilege is given to inmates who are low risk, behaved in custody and engaged with services.
"He left sometime between late morning and early afternoon," a spokesman said. "He had six months to go so he'll do about three months community service. If he completes that then he'll be free."
A spokesman for Begley and his wife Diane, who live in Rathcoole, Co Dublin, said they were not making any comment on his release.
The importer had been jailed for tax evasion after he admitted recording more than 1,000 tonnes of garlic imported from China as apples, which have a cheaper tax rate. The charges date from September 2003 and October 2007.
He had been head of Ireland's largest fruit and vegetable company, Begley Brothers Ltd, when he avoided paying a higher excise of up to 232%, compared to other fruit and vegetables which have rates as low as 9%.
But the Court of Criminal Appeal ruled his six-year sentence - the longest handed down for tax fraud of its kind - was excessive and disproportionate given his co-operation with investigators and guilty plea.
The judges said that despite the great disparity on duty paid between garlic and other comparable foods, the court had no role commenting on, or accounting for, the fairness or unfairness of the tax system.