Friday 23 March 2018

Lowry tax case arguments 'built on sand' - judge

Michael Lowry. Photo: Damien Eagers
Michael Lowry. Photo: Damien Eagers

Tim Healy

Independent TD Michael Lowry has lost a bid to halt his trial on tax-related charges.

Mr Lowry's case was based on many "ingenious and even superficially attractive" arguments which were "in truth, devoid of any substance and ultimately built on a foundation of sand", Mr Justice Seamus Noonan said when dismissing his case in the High Court.

He found Mr Lowry had "conspicuously declined" to engage with the €372,000 transaction of 2002 at the heart of the case.

He also disagreed with Mr Lowry's argument that a 2015 Appeal Commissioners determination of his tax appeal was a "vindication" of him, in light of which continuation of the tax prosecution was oppressive.

The Appeal Commissioners found "clear evidence" Mr Lowry "misappropriated" money of his company Garuda, the judge said.

There was also no authority for the proposition one "can buy immunity" by paying arrears of tax due.

Rejecting further complaints about the TD's trial being moved to Dublin Circuit Criminal Court from his native Co Tipperary, the judge said he could not see how that decision "could conceivably amount to oppression".

The five charges against Mr Lowry arise from a 2002 transaction involving a €372,000 payment due to Garuda being diverted to an Isle of Man trust account nominated by Kevin Phelan, an accountant from Omagh.

Mr Lowry is charged with filing incorrect income tax returns for 2002 and conniving in alleged delivery by Garuda of incorrect corporation tax returns for the years ending 2002 and 2006.

He is also charged, under the Companies Acts, with wilfully causing a company to fail to keep proper books of account between August 28, 2002, and August 3, 2007.

Mr Lowry argued he self-declared and self-corrected the matter in 2007.

He also said the Appeals Commissioner in 2015 found he had no personal income tax liability. Garuda ultimately paid some €38,000 in corporation tax and the only outstanding issue was a disputed surcharge liability of €2,410.

In the circumstances, he argued continuation of his prosecution was unfair and disproportionate and he was also prejudiced by "savage" media articles about the Lowry tapes.

The DPP rejected the claims.

Mr Lowry was not in court but, in a statement, indicated he intended to appeal.

Irish Independent

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