Tuesday 20 August 2019

'Game is over,' judge tells car dealer who could be jailed

John Alex Kane. Photo: Collins
John Alex Kane. Photo: Collins
Shane Phelan

Shane Phelan

A car dealer being pursued by the taxman for the past decade over a judgment of close to €5m has been found to be in contempt of court.

The President of the High Court made the finding after concluding he frankly did not believe testimony given by John Alex Kane.

Mr Kane will find out in three weeks' time if he is to be sent to jail after Mr Justice Peter Kelly adjourned a decision on his punishment.

The judge said he thought Mr Kane had been "playing games" with the court for a long time. "That is the impression I get. But the game time is over," the judge said.

Mr Justice Kelly's comments came after the car dealer disputed affidavit evidence from a security operative who says he saw Mr Kane leaving a property being sold by a Revenue-appointed receiver.

Mr Kane gave undertakings last November not to interfere with the 34-acre parcel of farmland in Willsbrook, Co Longford, which along with other properties he owns is being sold by a receiver seeking to recoup the tax debt. The undertakings were given after receiver Myles Kirby alleged Mr Kane was behind a campaign of interference and intimidation aimed at hindering his work and putting off buyers. Mr Kane denies this.

However, the court heard security operative Kieran Sands saw Mr Kane leaving the property at 9am on March 28 in a blue Isuzu vehicle.

An affidavit from Mr Sands also said a local told him they had seen Mr Kane checking on 15 cattle placed on the property. Mr Kirby alleges the cattle were put there as part of the campaign of interference.

In court yesterday, Mr Kane of Cartron, Granard, Co Longford, denied being at the farmland or having anything to do with the placement of the cattle there. He protested that if this was true, Mr Sands would have provided video evidence.

Under cross-examination by Gary McCarthy SC, instructed by Ivor Fitzpatrick and Co, Mr Kane denied he was lying.

However, Mr Justice Kelly said: "I have had the opportunity of seeing him in the witness box and observing him and frankly I have to say I do not believe Mr Kane.

"I have no reason to believe Mr Sands was hallucinating or engaging in a work of fiction."

The judge must also consider whether Mr Kane breached undertakings given last year to file tax returns within 28 days.

Mr Kane accepts he did not file returns within that time, but says they have now been filed. However, the court heard Revenue believes the returns are not correct.

According to an affidavit filed by Revenue official John Magee, Mr Kane claimed in the returns to have had an income of just €20,800 between January 2016 and December 2017.

Mr Magee said the standard of living enjoyed by Mr Kane and his family was manifestly inconsistent with the income declared. He also alleged Mr Kane was retaining for his own benefit Vat charged on the sale of a vehicle in 2017. Mr Kane said he had only briefly read the affidavit and needed time to respond to it.

Mr Justice Kelly agreed to this and said he would consider the matter again at a hearing in three weeks' time, when he will also finalise the punishment for contempt.

Earlier, Mr Kane's brother Seamus was freed by the judge after spending a week in Mountjoy for contempt.

He was freed after apologising for breaching orders and undertakings not to enter the Willsbrook lands.

Irish Independent

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