Adams paints a picture of his morally decrepit criminal gang of fools
Gerry Adams's words of support for a convicted tax cheat say a lot more about Adams himself, writes Jim Cusack
Published 20/12/2015 | 02:30
Nine years and seven months in gestation, the State prosecution of Gerry Adams' friend and Sinn Fein supporter Thomas 'Slab' Murphy of Ballybinaby, Co Louth, for tax evasion took only 20 minutes in judgment.
Mr Justice Paul Butler, presiding, speaking on behalf of his two fellow members of the Special Criminal Court, Judge Ann Ryan and Judge John O'Hagan, delivered judgment shortly before lunch last Thursday. Murphy (66) sat in the public benches of the court alone to hear the verdict. He seemed to mouth some words as the verdict was read out but was mainly impassive.
The end of the 32-day trial came swiftly and calmly with the three judges rejecting his defence that 'a forger was afoot' in the case and his was not the signature on an array of Department of Agriculture, cattle mart and other documents relating to the sale and purchase of large amounts of livestock.
The judges found that Thomas 'Slab' Murphy was the 'chargeable' person in relation to the eight offences under the Tax Consolidation Act, the first tax case to come before the Special (jury-less) Court, and rejected the proposition that it was his brother, Patrick, also known as 'Slab', who had signed the documents.
Mr Patrick Murphy was not called to give evidence and was not in court for the proceedings. The court was told that Thomas Murphy received €100,000 in EU and State subsidies and had been involved in hundreds of thousands of euros-worth of cattle sales at a number of marts, from the Midlands to Donegal.
The Revenue Commissioners declared that he had not paid any tax between 1996 and March 2006 when a joint British-Irish police, customs and military raid, involving over 500 personnel, took place at his home on Larkins Road, about a mile outside Crossmaglen. The court heard the raid led to the seizure of €625,000 in cash and cheques at the farm. Murphy subsequently made a €1million settlement with the Criminal Assets Bureau and the UK's Serious and Organised Crime Agency.
The case was originally listed for hearing before a jury in Dundalk Circuit Court in 2008 but was moved to the Special Criminal Court in Dublin, starting in October. The reasons for the delay of nearly a decade in coming to trial was not referred to in court.
The three judges also rejected a defence submission that reports in the media relating to the raid on Murphy's farm linking him to the South Armagh IRA were 'of no relevance whatsoever on the court's decision'.
The legal journey to last Thursday's conviction began in January 2008 when lawyers for the State sought and were granted leave to have the case taken from Dundalk Court to the Special Criminal Court.
Prior to the successful application the Circuit Court in Dundalk heard that cash to the value of €630,000 - including £140,000 - had been seized at the Murphy farm. At the same time, raids took place in the UK where properties in the northwest of England valued at £445,000 (€611,000) had been seized.
Along with the bags of cash found on the farm, gardai and PSNI also seized 30,000 cigarettes and 8,000 litres of diesel, four tanker lorries, a fourth lorry and an 'oil laundering unit'.
Gardai gave evidence that the settlement reached at the time, including the seizure of the assets, was in respect of a 'global crime and fraud investigation into the proceeds of crime'. A total of 15 residential and business properties were simultaneously raided in the Republic and UK.
Officers from the Criminal Assets Bureau gave evidence that Murphy had been involved in fuel smuggling for 20 years. It was reported at the time of seizure that proceedings by the UK's equivalent of the Criminal Assets Bureau - the Assets Recovery Agency - in October 2005, that Murphy's assets were in the region of £40m (€55.2m).
The publicity then surrounding the case was denounced by Sinn Fein's Newry and Armagh MP Conor Murphy (no relation).
Speaking on BBC Radio Ulster, Conor Murphy said "individuals within the Assets Recovery Agency who have a Special Branch background, have been giving selective and private briefings to some journalists" about Slab Murphy.
Gerry Adams also rowed in to support his 'friend' Slab, saying: "Tom Murphy is not a criminal. He's a good republican. I read his statement after the Manchester raids. I believe what he says. He's also, and very importantly, a key supporter of the Sinn Féin peace strategy and has been for a very long time."
Commenting on 'Slab' Murphy's conviction on Thursday, the Sinn Fein President said: "I am aware of the reports of this morning's judgment and that Tom Murphy has been released on bail. He has strongly contested the accusations. I have no comment to make until the legal process has been concluded."
Sinn Fein has similarly and consistently defended the activities of 'republicans' in the Border area and denounced claims that the IRA or its surrogates have been involved in any illegal activities. The party has, in fact, been complicit in deflecting blame from the south Armagh IRA to 'criminals' in a number of instances where the Sunday Independent has been able to establish that the accused people were, in fact, ordinary law-abiding citizens who have happened to become involved in disputes with local Provos.
Over the past two decades and even before, back to the mid-1970s when 'Slab' Murphy and others associated with him assumed power in the area, there have been repeated instances of people being targeted over the sale of lands, attempts to establish businesses and over personal matters.
The party's 2006 claim to support the PSNI has not manifested itself in south Armagh, and where normal, legal business is almost impossible to exist under the oppressive IRA regime.
This lack of legitimate enterprise in an area that has suffered economic depression for generations is one of the main factors in prolonging the Provo rule, gardai and local people say.
The prospects for young people finding proper paying work are extremely limited and those that do are often subjected to extortion by affiliated 'republican' groups, usually termed 'dissident' in the media but who are known to operate under the umbrella of the one major criminal organisation, the Provisional IRA.