Sunday 25 August 2019

'Game time is over' - car dealer being pursued by taxman over judgment of almost €5m found in contempt of court

John Alex Kane
John Alex Kane
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.

John Alex Kane will find out in three weeks if he is to be sent to jail after the President of the High Court adjourned a decision on what punishment he should face.

Mr Justice Peter Kelly made the contempt finding after concluding he frankly did not believe testimony given by Mr Kane in court today.

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 took to the stand to dispute affidavit evidence from a security operative who says he saw Mr Kane leaving a property being sold by Revenue-appointed receiver Myles Kirby.

Mr Kane gave undertakings to the court on November 23 last year 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 the receiver to recoup some of the tax debt.

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. Mr Justice Peter Kelly

The undertakings were given after Mr Kirby alleged the car dealer was behind a campaign of interference and intimidation aimed at hindering the sales and putting off prospective buyers, claims denied by Mr Kane.

However, the High Court heard today that a security operative, Kieran Sands, observed Mr Kane leaving the Willsbrook property on March 28 last at 9am 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 which had been placed on the property without authorisation.

Mr Kirby has alleged the cattle were put there as part of the campaign of interference.

Giving evidence at his contempt hearing today, Mr Kane, of Cartron, Granard, Co Longford, denied being at the farmland that morning or having anything to do with cattle being placed on it.

He protested that if this was true, Mr Sands would have provided dashcam or body camera footage.

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

He insisted he had not been at Willsbrook and also denied allegations he was behind the campaign of intimidation.

“I didn’t intimidate anybody,” he said.

However, Mr Justice Kelly rejected his testimony. “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,” the judge said.

“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 as part of a deal reached with the Revenue and the receiver last year to file tax returns within 28 days.

Mr Kane accepts he did not file returns within that time, but says he now has filed the returns.

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 in the two-year period between January 1, 2016 and December 31, 2017.

But Mr Magee said the standard of living enjoyed by Mr Kane and his family was manifestly inconsistent with a declared income which was barely above the minimum wage.

Mr Kane also previously claimed in court that he was an employee of Rathcronin Motors Limited, a company set up by Corkman Michael Grimes, who was convicted of tax offences last year.

But Mr Magee’s affidavit cites a sales invoice in respect of the sale of a vehicle for €22,000, including Vat of €4,113, in July 2017.

The invoice was from “J Kane” and not Rathcronin Motors or any other entity Mr Kane claims to have been an employee of.

Mr Magee said Mr Kane had submitted a nil Vat return for the period covered by the sales invoice. He alleged Mr Kane was retaining the Vat for his own personal benefit.

Mr Kane said he had only briefly read the affidavit and wanted time to respond to it.

Mr Justice Kelly said he would give him two weeks to file a response. The judge said he would consider the matter again at a hearing in three weeks' time, when he will also finalise the punishment for contempt over entering the Willsbrook lands.

kane001.png
Seamus Kane, of Ardnagullion, Granard, Co Longford. Picture credit: Damien Eagers / INM

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

He was jailed after admitting to breaching orders and undertakings not to interfere with the Willsbrook lands. It was the second time he had been jailed for contempt for interfering in efforts by the receiver to sell the land. 

Seamus Kane used heavy farm machinery to carry out the topping of grass at the property on April 19.

It was alleged by the receiver that the incursion was a crude attempt to demonstrate to locals and prospective purchasers that the lands were still under the control of the Kane family.

After Seamus Kane gave further undertakings in the witness stand not to interfere with the properties being sold, Mr Justice Kelly said he was satisfied he had purged his contempt and allowed him to go free.

However, the judge said he wished to make it clear that if Seamus Kane breached undertakings again, he would be “going to prison for a long time”.

“I cannot countenance a situation where court orders are not obeyed,” said Mr Justice Kelly.

“I want him to leave court today with no misapprehension about the seriousness of his situation.”

Earlier, the judge heard evidence from Seamus Kane’s GP, Dr Noel Cogan, about a medical certificate provided to the court last week.

The certificate said Seamus Kane suffered from anxiety and alcoholism, but Mr Justice Kelly was concerned about the document as he believed the doctor’s stamp appeared to be a photocopy.

The judge also observed that a number of words, including “alcoholism”, were misspelled.

Dr Cogan gave evidence that the certificate was genuine and not a photocopy. He told the judge he had stamped it after writing it.

The doctor said the misspelling may have been due to him being quite busy at the time.

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