Sunday 19 November 2017

Waterford man jailed for part in importation of €3m worth of untaxed cigarettes

Declan Brennan

AN unemployed Waterford man has being jailed for 18 months for his part in the importation of €3m worth of untaxed cigarettes.

`Edward Fitzgerald (62) was arrested when customs and excise officials found a container declared as furniture from China containing 8,300,000 cigarettes on March 20, 2009.

Dublin Circuit Criminal Court heard that the sale of these cigarettes could have resulted in a loss in taxes of €2.8m.

Fitzgerald of Ashgrove Crescent, Kilcohan pleaded guilty to attempted evasion of excise duty on 8,300,000 cigarettes with a value of €3,361,500 in Tipperary on March 26, 2009 and to keeping that amount of cigarettes for sale or delivery without a tax stamp.

Kevin Murtagh, an official with Customs and Excise, told Melanie Greally BL, prosecuting, the container was delivered to a storage unit made out to PJ Fitzgerald, at Milriver Business Park in Carrick-on-Suir, Co Tipperary and kept under surveillance.

Fitzgerald was observed helping unload the container during a three day surveillance operation by gardai and customs officials.

Fitzgerald was arrested and admitted knowing what was in the container. He admitted he was involved in the importation of the cigarettes and that he had made up the name PJ Fitzgerald for the delivery of the consignment. He said he was getting a small amount of money for himself

Fitzgerald has one previous conviction for fraud and received a 12 month suspended jail term in 2007. The court heard the conviction involved a dispute over a property.

Ms Greally told the court that the maximum sentence available for these offences was a fine of three times the duty lost, which in this case was €2.8m or a fine of €12,695 and a jail term of five years.

Defence counsel Frank Quirke BL, instructed by Michael A. O’Brian solicitors, said that Fitzgerald was a father of six who had led an industrious life and had ran his own business for 14 years.

A report handed to the court put him at a low risk of reoffending.

Judge Leonie Reynolds said that Fitzgerald was involved in an elaborate operation which required some planning. She said that while he maintained he was at the lower end of the scheme he must have known the vast scale of it, it’s serious nature and the serious loss to Revenue.

She said the mitigating factors were his co-operation with the investigation, his age and health issues and the low risk of re-offending.

She imposed a sentence of three years but suspended the last 18 months.

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