Saturday 25 November 2017

Lowry got Revenue to cut green diesel fine

Shane Phelan

Shane Phelan

INDEPENDENT TD Michael Lowry successfully lobbied the Revenue Commissioners to get a reduced fine for a constituent caught illegally using green diesel.

Mr Lowry, whose home was raided by Revenue officials and gardai last week, made repeated representations on behalf of the farmer.

Revenue can impose fines of up to €5,000 on people caught using cheap agricultural diesel in their cars. Cases that go to court can result in sentences of up to three months in prison.

But Mr Lowry succeeded in getting his constituent a reduced fine after gardai found green diesel in his car during a random roadside check.

Records obtained by the Sunday Independent show Mr Lowry went to considerable lengths to have the fine reduced, writing to and calling officials at the Revenue's mineral oil prosecution unit in Bridgend, Co Donegal, on several occasions during late 2011 and early 2012.

In a letter to an official in December 2011, he appealed for leniency for the constituent, claiming the fuel tank had been filled by someone else, who had "accidentally put the incorrect fuel in".

He said it was an honest mistake and that the man would not have driven the car if he had known the wrong fuel was in it.

He also claimed the man was under severe financial pressure and the fine involved – not revealed in the letter – was "simply out of his reach".

Later that month, Mr Lowry wrote a letter that indicates the constituent had received a reduced fine, which was "a huge relief for him".

The letter thanked an official in the unit "most sincerely" for their help.

However, by the following month, Mr Lowry was again asking the same official for a further reduction in the fine.

It is clear from the letter that there had been phone contact between the official and the Tipperary North TD during the previous weeks.

Mr Lowry asked the Revenue official to accept an even lower sum as "final settlement of this charge".

It is unclear from the records what happened next.

The Revenue said it would not comment on individual cases – but a spokesperson said members of the Oireachtas were entitled to articulate a constituent's concerns.

"Revenue, on the other hand, must remain steadfastly independent in its interpretation and application of the law and administrative procedures," they said.

"In relation to marked mineral oil offences, provision is made in the legislation for the mitigation of fines or penalties. Additional facts or circumstances put forward by the individual concerned or a representative on his or her behalf may have an impact on the decision of a Revenue official to mitigate penalties."

Records show Mr Lowry also wrote to the Revenue in April 2011 about another constituent who was caught with green diesel, again seeking favourable treatment.

The TD appealed for "understanding and leniency" for a truck owner whose employee was caught driving with green diesel.

He said the man was "genuinely sorry" and was "very anxious" the matter did not end up in the courts.

Mr Lowry asked the official to "engage in conversation" with the owner "with a view to resolving this without the use of the legal process". The outcome was not disclosed.

Sunday Independent

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