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Family considers appeal of garlic-scam jail term

THE family of a fruit and vegetable importer jailed for six years for avoiding paying customs duty on garlic is considering mounting an appeal against the severity of his sentence.

Paul Begley, the former head of Begley Brothers Ltd based in Blanchardstown, Co Dublin, was jailed for six years on Friday after a court heard he avoided paying €1.6m in duty by instructing Chinese suppliers to produce false invoices labelling garlic as apples.

Import duties on apples are just 9pc, but are up to 232pc on garlic. More than 1,000 tonnes of garlic were imported and Mr Begley pleaded guilty to four sample counts of evading customs duty between September 2003 and October 2007.

The father of three teenage children resigned as director of the family-run business, which employs 100 people, some months ago.

A spokesman for the family said last night they were considering an appeal.

In a statement, the Begleys said they were "devastated and heartbroken" at the severity of the sentence.

"It's important to stress that what Paul did was wrong. It was a breach of EU Regulations and he knows that. His family also know that," the statement said.

"What we can't understand is how he received such an extraordinary sentence when every day you see people guilty of violence, drug smuggling and other shocking crimes getting much less."

Revenue officials discovered the scam in October 2007 when customs officers at Dublin Port investigated a container that was supposed to contain 18 tonnes of apples and two tonnes of garlic, but found 21 tonnes of garlic and no apples. An investigation then began into previous imports by the company.

Mr Begley, of Woodlock, Redgap, Rathcoole, has been paying off debt over the past two years at €33,000 a month and €700,000 remains outstanding.

Irish Independent