Thursday 23 March 2017

Tax evader with SF link pours petrol on Gallagher's Aras bid

Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

CONVICTED fuel smuggler Hugh Morgan may have donated money to Fianna Fail, but he is also associated with leading members of Sinn Fein.

Mr Morgan, who has alleged that Sean Gallagher visited his business seeking a €5,000 donation for Fianna Fail, has been Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams's landlord at his constituency office in Dundalk since January.

It emerged that Mr Morgan contacted Martin McGuinness on Monday to inform him of Mr Gallagher's alleged efforts to organise donations for the 2008 fundraiser attended by Brian Cowen in 2008.

Yesterday, Mr Gallagher accused Sinn Fein candidate Martin McGuinness of attempting to take him out of the race for the Aras with a "political assassination".

And he said that while "Mr McGuinness pulled the trigger", it was Newry-based businessman and convicted fuel smuggler Mr Morgan who had "loaded the gun".

Mr Morgan is a prominent figure in Newry and Armagh, and his company Morgan Fuels Ireland sponsors the county GAA football team.

But in 1998 Mr Morgan pleaded guilty to fuel smuggling and more than 80 counts of tax evasion, receiving an 18-month suspended sentence and was ordered to pay £500,000 in excise duties and VAT.

The judge moved the case from Armagh to Belfast because he feared that an impartial jury could not be secured -- due to the businessman's popularity in the area as the local GAA team's sponsor.

A 2007 edition of RTE's 'Prime Time Investigates' found one of Mr Morgan's trucks supplying a smugglers' depot in Co Monaghan, though it noted that the delivery itself was not an illegal practice.

Office

He hit the headlines again in February during the General Election when it emerged that he owns the building where Gerry Adams's constituency office is located.

Asked at the time if he had any qualms about renting an office from a convicted fuel smuggler, Mr Adams replied: "It's a totally bona fide legal contract between Sinn Fein and the owner of the building.

"It's a short-term commercial lease -- sin é, that's it."

He said that Sinn Fein had a six-month lease with their landlord, Mr Morgan. But eight months later, Mr Adams is still based in the Park Street premises.

A Sinn Fein spokesman last night said that Mr Adams WAs still using the office but a new lease had not yet been signed.

Both Mr Adams and Mr Morgan denied being acquainted at the time.

The spokesman said that Mr Morgan was not a member of the party and also denied that the businessman and Martin McGuinness knew each other.

Asked to explain how Mr Morgan's intervention in the campaign took place, he said: "Mr Morgan contacted Martin's campaign team, who passed Mr Morgan's number on to Martin, who then called him."

In a statement yesterday, Mr Morgan repeated the allegations about Mr Gallagher picking up a cheque for Fianna Fail.

He also said: "It is a fact that approximately 14 years ago I was convicted of tax evasion in relation to fuel smuggling in Northern Ireland.

"As a consequence to that, I have repaid the Exchequer and paid a substantial fine. I was never investigated by CAB or any other agency in the Republic."

He described Morgan Fuels as "a successful international business", adding: "I employ over 80 people in Ireland, both North and South."

Irish Independent

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