Disgraced TD Wallace may face charges for VAT offence
TD cancels his trip to Poland for Euro 2012 as gravity of crisis dawns on Technical Group
INDEPENDENT TD Mick Wallace may yet face prosecution for his self-confessed VAT evasion, the Sunday Independent can reveal.
The unorthodox TD's company, MJ Wallace Ltd, will this week appear in the Revenue's published Defaulters' List.
Experts have indicated that taxpayers who reach full settlements with the Revenue Commissioners do not normally see their names published and do not normally face prosecution.
The imminent public naming and shaming of Mr Wallace's company means that prosecution is still open to the authorities, according to tax experts. There may be two grounds for this.
Firstly, that the settlement may not be regarded as a full settlement because, as Mr Wallace revealed this week, the debt will never be fully repaid.
Secondly, he knowingly made a false declaration of VAT returns to Revenue about his company MJ Wallace.
A former Revenue official, Fiona O'Shea, said yesterday: "That information would never have come to light, if he hadn't said it."
In a surprise move, Mr Wallace cancelled his much-publicised plans to attend today's Euro 2012 match in Poland between Ireland and Croatia. Instead, he has returned to his Wexford constituency for a period of reflection.
He has stated that he intends to make a statement to the Dail when it resumes on Tuesday.
The Wallace controversy has brought an embarrassing spotlight on the Dail's technical group of 15 independent TDs, a diverse group which has banded together to gain Dail speaking rights and which, according to recent polls, commands 13 per cent of popular support. Their response to the affair was perceived as tardy and anodyne.
Last night the Minister for Justice, Alan Shatter, said: "The events of the last few days have totally undermined the credibility of members of the technical group and exposed them as merely Sinn Fein Lite."
Mr Shatter ratcheted up the pressure on the group by stating that they "need to decide whether they are self-serving street anarchists, addicted to opportunistic populist protest and obsessed by out of date left-wing or right-wing ideology or real democrats".
In defiance of calls for his resignation, Mr Wallace yesterday said he intended to clarify his position in relation to his taxation issues in the Dail on Tuesday and that he proposed to continue to serve as a TD.
It was being speculated in political circles this weekend that Mr Wallace may spare the blushes of his independent colleagues and step aside from the technical group, while he confronts the possibility of further legal action, including possible prosecution.
While the Revenue Commissioners do not comment on individual cases, a spokeswoman confirmed to the Sunday Independent that it always has the power to revisit a settlement where new and potentially relevant information comes to its attention.
The Revenue Commissioners' decision to agree a €2.1m settlement with Mr Wallace does not preclude further legal action against him. However, should the taxman become aware of anything in the future which could have materially affected its decision to agree that settlement, the independent TD could find his case being re-opened.
The Wexford TD's bald admission last week that it was "very unlikely" that the Revenue would ever get the €2.1m he agreed to as part of his company's settlement could yet see the taxman move to recover the money through solicitors, the sheriff, and failing that, through liquidation.
Criminal offences under tax law can be either a "misdemeanour" -- a minor offence usually dealt with in the District Court by way of fine -- or, in cases where large sums of money are involved, a "felony", which carries fines of up to €1m and up to 10 years' imprisonment.
The independent TD's case stands in stark contrast to the 16 referred by the taxman to the DPP last year alone. According to the Revenue Commissioners' Annual Report for 2011, there were 108 ongoing investigations into serious tax evasion and 21 cases before the courts.
Separately, 16 convictions were secured against tax offenders, with 10 custodial sentences imposed. Four of those imprisoned were given sentences ranging from seven to 30 months.
In one of the most public Revenue prosecutions in recent Irish history, Paul Begley of Begley Brothers Ltd, also known as the 'Garlic Man', was sentenced to six years for falsely describing garlic as apples in order to pay a lower rate of excise duty.
Pressure on the Wexford TD continued to mount yesterday as even his closest political allies within the Dail's technical group began to turn against him and call for his resignation as a TD.
Speaking to this newspaper, independent deputy Finian McGrath echoed the calls of two other member of the Dail's technical group -- John Halligan and Seamus Healy -- in calling for Mr Wallace to give up his seat.
"My sincere belief is the only way Mr Wallace can reconcile his position where he himself has made the point that he serves at the pleasure of the people is to, for the good of politics, resign his seat, allow a by-election to be held and let the people pass judgement," Mr McGrath said.
Mr Shatter reserved his strongest criticism for Mr Wallace, commenting: "Deputy Wallace has admitted that he intentionally signed fraudulent VAT returns. In doing so, he has deprived the State of money collected from home buyers which his company was obliged to pass on to the Revenue."
Independent TD Stephen Donnelly yesterday said: "The technical group is being attacked because of the action of one of its members and I think that's fair enough. We're taking some political heat and I think that's fair enough too."